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I know my health carrier made a profit last year. Now it says it needs a rate increase because it has been losing money. Can both things be true?

Yes. Carriers offer coverage through various lines of business - e.g. group, individual, Medicare Supplemental. It is possible that some lines of business make money some years while other lines may not. Also, even if a company is making a profit today, due to ever-increasing medical costs, it may be necessary to raise rates to cover claims and expenses over the coming rating period, usually one year.