Not everyone is in a position to shop around for health insurance. People who work for large companies are typically stuck with the provider of their employer's choice, not their own.

But the first wave of baby boomers is approaching retirement, and ever larger numbers of people are uninsured, because they're self-employed, or the premiums for their employers' plans are prohibitively expensive, or some other reason. Moreover, the growing interest in high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts makes it increasingly important to compare the financial strength of different providers.

Every quarter, TheStreet.com Ratings looks at the financial strength of nearly 700 health insurers. The firm's quantitative analytical model assigns a rating, on a scale of A to E, based on each insurer's five-year financial performance, including an analysis of profitability, liquidity, stability and capitalization.

A lower rating doesn't necessarily mean policyholders are likely to be stuck with unpaid claims. But those companies at the bottom of the scale are more likely to be acquired, wind down their business or withdraw from unprofitable business lines. The real issue is continuity of care -- whether you would have to be concerned about a change in benefits and provider network.

The latest review of second-quarter 2006 financial statements indicates that the industry continues to be profitable while also maintaining adequate capital levels. These trends are reflected in TheStreet.com ratings, with nearly 60% of the ratings assigned in the good or excellent range

If you liked this article you might like

The ABCs of Medicare: Prescription Drug Plans

The ABCs of Medicare: Prescription Drug Plans

The ABCs of Medicare: Medigap

The ABCs of Medicare: Medigap

The ABCs of Medicare: Original vs. Medicare Advantage

The ABCs of Medicare: Original vs. Medicare Advantage

Wellcare Under Review for Downgrade

Wellcare Under Review for Downgrade

How to Find the Best Hospital

How to Find the Best Hospital