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Best Week, Worst Week: Lower costs for Md. health exchange customers; Baltimore attorney indicted

best-worst-092119Marylanders on the individual health insurance market got news this week their premiums will be going down, while a Baltimore attorney was handed federal indictments that could put him behind bars for life.

Business writer Tim Curtis reported Thursday health insurance premiums will decrease by an average 10% for most of the more than 190,000 consumers in Maryland’s individual market in 2020, the second straight year of decreases in the market.

The Maryland Insurance Administration’s rate approval closes a quiet rate review process that stood in contrast to past years that included skyrocketing premium requests, a shrinking pool of carriers and the creation of a reinsurance program.

Premiums will decrease 14.7% on average for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield HMO member, 1.4% for CareFirst PPO members and 5% on average for Kaiser Permanente HMO members. All of the approved premiums are at least 5 percentage points lower than what the carriers had requested.

This year’s rate review process was notably different from previous years, which have been marked by high rate requests. Last year’s process was particularly active, with CareFirst initially requesting a rate increase as high as 90% on its PPO product. CareFirst and Kaiser both requested significant increases for their HMO products.

But at the same time, the state sought and received approval from the federal government to set up a reinsurance program that would reimburse carriers for some of the costs of high claims.

Meanwhile, Kenneth W. Ravenell of Ravenell Law was indicted Wednesday on federal racketeering, drug and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Legal affairs writer Heather Cobun reported Wednesday that Ravenell is accused of receiving payments from a drug trafficker client and his associates in exchange for instructing them how to evade police and continue their operations. The indictment accuses Ravenell of “violating the legitimate purposes of The Law Firm in order to enrich himself (and a co-conspirator) through illegal conduct, including receiving monies” from a drug trafficker and his associates during the period.

Ravenell faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for racketeering conspiracy, 20 years for money laundering conspiracy and life in prison for narcotics conspiracy.

The 60-year-old Baltimore attorney allegedly “protected and assisted co-conspirators in their drug trafficking,” laundered money through his firm’s bank accounts, received drug payments in the firm’s accounts and created false records to conceal the source of funds.

The indictment also alleges Ravenell used funds from co-conspirators to pay attorneys retained to represent other members of the conspiracy and concealed the source of the funds from those attorneys. In addition, Ravenell obtained information about arrested co-conspirators and provided that information to others to protect ongoing drug operations and attempted to improperly influence incarcerated co-conspirators he did not represent to get them to execute false affidavits and statements, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.