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Small-group health premiums will vary next year

Marylanders who get their health insurance from a small-business employer might see their premiums rise next year, but the increases are likely more modest than increases in individual plan rates.

Not all of the 13 insurance companies raised the rates they charge to small businesses, though. Several actually lowered the premiums they will charge.

The largest insurer in Maryland, CareFirst BlueChoice Inc., will raise premiums by an average of 5.8 percent. CareFirst of Maryland Inc. will increase premiums by an average of 4.7 percent.

Small-group plans offered by UnitedHealthCare and its subsidiaries will come with lower premiums: an average reduction of 2.6 percent.

The largest increase in premiums is for plans offered by Coventry Health and Life Insurance Co. Those premiums will increase by 10.9 percent on average. Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc., by contrast, is not changing its rates at all.

The rate changes apply beginning in January to people enrolled in small-group plans. The rates were approved by the Maryland Insurance Commission and announced Friday. The changes are just averages; some people may see larger or smaller hikes depending on where they live, their age and tobacco usage.

For example, a 40-year-old nonsmoker living in Baltimore with a silver level plan would pay a monthly premiums between $244 to $443, depending on the insurer, and before any employer contribution.

The changes do not apply to people who get their health insurance from a large employer or who have individual plans.

“Maryland has a competitive small-group health insurance market,” said Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith in a statement. “With such a broad range of rates and plans, business owners may find it in their best interest to review their options for 2015.”

About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.