Those who buy their health insurance in Maryland will pay an average of 6.6% more next year, about 4.4% less than required carriers, according to the Maryland Insurance Administration, which approved the increases.
State agency officials said in May when insurers requested increases that they expected costs related to the coronavirus pandemic to increase the price of health insurance offered in Maryland by three carriers under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
Since then, rising inflation has become a factor, although the approved rate hike falls below the pace of inflation that has averaged 8.4% this year, noted Kathleen A. Birrane, Maryland’s insurance commissioner.
The increases affect more than 232,000 people who buy insurance through the state’s health exchange or directly from an insurance company. Most of them are not provided insurance by their employers.
The lists grew last year through special enrollment periods aimed at reaching people who lost jobs and insurance during the pandemic. Medicaid, the federal state health insurance program for low-income residents, also grew, although the state is resuming checks to see if people still qualify after a pause during the health emergency.
Under the approved increases, rates for a 40-year-old Baltimore-area resident on the lowest-cost silver plan would increase:
- 3.8% for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s HMO plan covering more than 149,000 people. Monthly premiums would increase by $12 to $335.
- 13.3% for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s PPO plan covering nearly 16,300. Premiums would increase from $60 to $513.
- 4.5% for United Healthcare’s HMO plan, raising premiums by $15 to $350.
- 2.7% for Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plan, raising premiums from $7 to $268.
About 80% of people receive federal subsidies to help cover the cost of those premiums. They will continue to improve under legislation recently passed by Congress through the Inflation Reduction Act.
That should help people continue with the insurance they bought during the pandemic, in addition to other youth subsidies and other existing subsidies, said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.
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“Recent years have proven that Marylanders recognize the importance of having health coverage,” she said in a statement. “Although health plan prices are going up for some Marylanders, there are savings available. We are grateful that the Inflation Reduction Act keeps financial assistance in place for many people through 2025.”
The cost of the plans had been falling for several years after a reinsurance program approved by the General Assembly in 2018 helped offset the costs associated with more expensive beneficiaries. Birrane credited the program with preventing higher rate hikes.
“The reinsurance program continues to do its job,” Birrane said in a statement.
“The 2023 rate changes are tied to rising claims costs and projections of what those costs might be in 2023, given claims cost trends. Inflation, rising unit costs for services, increased utilization, and continued cost uncertainty related to COVID are all important factors affecting rates,” she said. “However, we have been able to keep rates below inflationary trends thanks to the reinsurance program.”
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CareFirst officials noted in a statement that while the state’s reinsurance program has been a stabilizing force, there is still a need to find ways to lower the underlying cost of health care.
“CareFirst looks forward to collaborating on future initiatives to advocate to lower the cost of care and make health care more affordable,” it said in a statement.
Kaiser officials said in a statement that the 2023 rates reflect “the projected costs of providing high-quality health care and coverage to all of our members over the long term.”
UnitedHealthcare did not respond to a request for comment.
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