NU Online News Service, Feb. 7, 2005, 3:15 p.m. EST

U.S. managed care companies continue to improve profits despite flat capital levels.[@@]

Weiss Ratings Inc., Jupiter, Fla., has published data supporting that conclusion in a report on health maintenance organization performance for the first half of 2004.

The 510 HMOs included in the study increased first-half earnings to $5.8 billion, from $4.4 billion for the first half of 2003, according to Weiss.

Weiss now considers 50% of the HMOs to be financial strong. The firm is increasing ratings for 111 HMOs and lowering the ratings of only 12.

But Melissa Gannon, a Weiss analyst, says the firm still is concerned about flat capital levels and mediocre profit margins at some HMOs.