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Md. regulator approves increased health insurance rates for 2018

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer. (File)

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer. (File)

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Wednesday approved amended rates for the 2018 insurance market that will increase premiums for silver-level plans of the state’s health exchange as a result of the Trump administration’s decision to halt cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments to insurance companies.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield HMO consumers with silver plans on the exchange will see average premium increases of 58.2 percent in 2018, nearly 17 percentage points higher than the originally approved increase. CareFirst PPO customers will see increases of 76 percent for 2018, nearly 24 percentage points higher than the originally approved rates.

Kaiser Permanente silver plans on the state exchange will have premium increases of 43.4 percent, more than 20 percentage points higher than the previously approved rates.

“This was challenging not just because of what had to occur, but because of the timing of it so close to the enrollment,” Redmer said. “I think that it was done in a way that will be at the least disruptive as possible for Maryland consumers and maybe even a couple of them may be able to benefit from the decisions that we have made.”

The amended rates were applied to silver exchange plans only so that the rate increases would not adversely affect most consumers. By increasing only silver level plans the amount of advanced premium tax credits available will also increase.

Those people who were eligible for the tax subsidies will receive more tax credits and should not see significantly higher rates than they would have before the cost-sharing reduction payments were stopped.

For consumers who did not previously receive subsidies — those whose income is above 400 percent of the federal poverty line — the Maryland Insurance Administration strongly encouraged that they seek off-exchange plans.

Those plans’ premiums will not increase beyond the rates the administration approved in August.

The rates were approved one week before the open enrollment period is set to begin. The insurance administration said the decision should not affect the opening.

But it could contribute to some confusion as people try to understand what changes have been made and how it could affect them.

“We’re hopeful that folks will receive the information,” Redmer said. “The recommendation that people seek advice, get information, and make a decision based on their own situation is not a new message.”

Redmer is also hopeful that the increased tax subsidies mean more people buy insurance than were previously planning on it.

“I’m hoping with the actions we’ve taken, we’ll have an environment with premium subsidies where we’ll have people that aren’t insured come in and buy insurance because of the cost,” he said.

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