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Md. health insurers request higher rates for 2017

All six companies that sell health insurance in Maryland’s individual market are asking state regulators to increase their premium rates in 2017.

This Aug 4, 2011 file photo shows the Cigna logo at the headquarters of the health insurer Cigna Corp., in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

This Aug 4, 2011 file photo shows the Cigna logo at the headquarters of the health insurer Cigna Corp., in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. is asking for the largest average increase, at 29.8 percent; the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States is asking for the next-highest average increase, at 25 percent, the Maryland Insurance Administration announced Friday.

The agency will accept public comment on the proposed increases from May 16 to June 15 and will hold a public hearing at its offices at 200 St. Paul Place in Baltimore on July 6.

“It’s important to remember that these rates are what companies have requested and not necessarily what will be approved,” Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr. said in a statement. “There will be a thorough review of all the filings. As in years past, we may require changes.”

By law, the commissioner is required to reject rate proposals that are inadequate, excessive or discriminatory.

Cigna, which expects its increases to affect 682 customers, believes they are needed because it anticipates the cost of medical and pharmacy services will increase in the coming year, according to written statements the company submitted to the MIA to justify the increases.

The Kaiser Foundation reported that it saw $75.8 million worth of medical claims in 2015, accounting for 101 percent of its revenues that year; if its 2017 rate request is granted, it projects that medical claims will account for 75 percent of its revenue.

CareFirst is the dominant insurer in the state. CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield, which had requested the largest increases for the 2016 plan year, is seeking smaller hikes for 2017 — an average increase of 12.4 percent for its CareFirst BlueChoice plans and 16 percent for plans offered under its CareFirst of Maryland and Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc. (GHMSI) divisions.

CareFirst’s rate requests are driven by an anticipated increase in medical and drug claims and the end of a federal reinsurance program, among other factors, the insurer wrote. Last year, CareFirst was granted average rate increases as high as 26 percent for some of its individual plans after reporting that rates hadn’t been covering costs and that it had seen a shortfall in the previous year of more than $100 million.

Evergreen Health Cooperative is requesting an 8.1 percent average increase for 2017, largely due to increasing medical costs and the end of federal and state reinsurance programs, the insurer wrote.

For plans sold in the small-group market, CareFirst is asking for a 7.4 percent average increase — the largest of any insurer in that category — for its CareFirst of Maryland and GHMSI plans.

Three UnitedHealthcare companies — MAMSI Life and Health Insurance Co., United Healthcare Insurance Co. and Optimum Choice — are seeking an average rate reduction of 0.1 percent.

The other requested changes for the small-group market are:

  • a 5 percent increase for Aetna Health Incurance and Aetna Life Insurance
  • a 3.9 percent increase for CareFirst BlueChoice
  • a 3.7 percent increase for Evergreen Health Cooperative
  • a 0.3 percent increase from Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States
  • a 5.7 percent increase for UnitedHealthcare of the Mid-Atlantic

A decision on the new rates for the individual and small-group markets is expected by the end of summer, according to the agency.