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Best Week, Worst Week: ACA customers see prices going down, Md. homebuyers see prices going up

best-worst-092918About 192,000 Marylanders who purchase insurance on the individual market got some good news this week as they will see lower prices, but prospective homebuyers across the state are facing higher prices for real estate.

Government affairs reporter Bryan P. Sears reported in Monday’s edition that insurance rates on the individual market in Maryland will go down by an average of about 13 percent instead of up as part of what was described as “a temporary fix.”

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer Jr., who is also running for Baltimore County executive, sees the rate reductions as a move in the right direction to stabilize the individual market. Gov. Larry Hogan said the lower rates give the health insurance market in Maryland the chance to become more competitive and dynamic.

CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer, had originally requested increases of 91.4 percent and 18.7 percent, respectively, on its PPO and HMO plans. Now, those rates are projected to decrease by 11.1 and 17 percent, respectively, CareFirst’s first year-over-year reductions in two decades. A requested increase of more than 37 percent for Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plan will now decrease more than 7 percent compared to current rates.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Wednesday the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s marketing strategy for the upcoming open enrollment period will tout the fact that rates are down. With a $3.3 million marketing budget and about $1.8 million of that going toward paid media, the exchange hopes to entice people into the market.

But as insurance prices are going down for Marylanders, the price of real estate is going back up.

Long-term U.S. mortgage rates are up for the fifth straight week, with the key 30-year rate reaching its highest level in more than seven years.

Costs for would-be homebuyers in Maryland area continue to climb. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate on 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 4.72 percent from 4.65 percent last week. The average benchmark rate has risen from 3.83 percent a year ago. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate loans increased to 4.16 percent this week from 4.11 percent last week.

The Federal Reserve signaled its confidence in the economy on Wednesday by raising a key interest rate for a third time this year, forecasting another rate hike before year’s end. The strong economy and anticipation of more short-term rate hikes by the Fed are helping drive the increase in mortgage rates.