Same story, different year: Health insurance premium rates for individual health insurance plans in Maryland are rising by 33 percent on average in 2018. The Maryland Insurance Administration has approved the rates, which are lower than the rate increase requests filed by insurers, which averaged 43.1 percent. Small group plan rates are also increasing by 1.7 percent on average, compared with the requested rate hike of 4.2 percent.
The specific increases vary by insurer, and WTOP outlined the average rate increase for each insurance company:
- CareFirst BlueChoice (individual): 34.5 percent
- CareFirst of Maryland and Group Hospitalization and Medical Services (individual): 49.9 percent
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States (individual): 22.6 percent
- Aetna Health (small group): 15.9 percent
- Aetna Life Insurance (small group): 5.6 percent
- CareFirst Blue Choice (small group): 1 percent
- CareFirst of Maryland and Group Hospitalization and Medical Services (small group): 4.8 percent
- Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States (small group): 0.2 percent
- MAMSI Life and Health Insurance Company (small group): 2.1 percent
- UnitedHealthCare Insurance Company (small group): 0.7 percent
- UnitedHealthCare of the Mid-Atlantic (small group): 5 percent
- Optimum Choice (small group): 1.1 percent
Everyone—including consumers, health insurance regulators, and insurance companies—agree that these rate increases are unsustainable, but failure at the federal level to ease the uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act has left many powerless. However, while the Trump administration may stop enforcing the individual mandate or cease cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, a Baltimore Sun editorial suggested a few options Maryland could take to lessen the blow.
One is adopting a reinsurance plan, which would mean covering insurers’ claims past a certain threshold for individuals with expensive medical conditions. Alaska has implemented this method, the Sun reported, and insurance rates rose only 7 percent this year and are on track to decline next year. Tom Price, Health and Human Services Secretary, has encouraged other states to adopt similar policies, and the Trump administration agreed to cover most of Alaska’s costs to enact their program.
Another, less popular option, the Sun noted, is passing a state-level individual mandate. Whether the Legislature will tackle any state-level proposals to help stabilize the health insurance market in Maryland remains to be seen.