Fall Into Fashion and Support Our Work

On Thursday, October 13, from 4:00 - 9:00 PM, Talbots at the Columbia Mall will donate 10% of all pre-tax sales to Consumer Health First! Visit us and buy something for yourself, family, or friends, and help support our work in advancing health access and equity for all Marylanders. See you there!

For a complete list of our Fall Fundraisers - please visit our Events Page to learn more.

Thanks for Coming!

Our third annual Get Engaged Symposium on September 16 was a great success - thanks to all who attended, and to our generous sponsors:

Our theme was Transformation: Getting it Right. The symposium brought together an exciting group of national, state, and community health care policy and advocacy leaders to discuss the most current health equity and transformation initiatives and opportunities. 

L-R: Consumer Health First Vice-President, Dr. Madeleine Shea, Executive Director, Jeananne Sciabarra, President, Leni Preston, and Dr. Cara James, Director, Office of Minority Health CMS

L-R: Consumer Health First Vice-President, Dr. Madeleine Shea, Executive Director, Jeananne Sciabarra, President, Leni Preston, and Dr. Cara James, Director, Office of Minority Health CMS

Our theme was Transformation: Getting it Right. The symposium brought together an exciting group of national, state, and community health care policy and advocacy leaders to discuss the most current health equity and transformation initiatives and opportunities. 

See the detailed agenda here, read the speaker's bios here, and download the presentations here.

And a huge thank you to our sponsors, without whom, events like these would not be possible - THANK YOU!

Gold:

Silver:

Bronze:

Maryland Insurance Administration Releases New Rates for 2017

The Maryland Insurance Administration released its new rates for the small group and individual markets on Friday, September 9. See our response in the Baltimore Sun.

Approximately 4.1% of Marylanders are enrolled in small group plans. In the small group market, the health insurance rates will increase by an average of 3.3%.

Approximately 4.4% of Marylanders are enrolled in individual health plans. In the individual market health insurers have sought rate adjustments in response to significant changes in federal regulation and market dynamics over the past three years. The increases in the individual plans ranged from a low of 10% for Kaiser, to 31.4% for CareFirst, with an overall average rate increase of more than 20%.

Consumer Health First appreciates the open, thorough and fair rate review process overseen by Maryland’s Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer, Jr. However, we are extremely disappointed by the significant increases approved for 2017 health insurance rates, particularly for CareFirst. 

While we recognize that CareFirst lost money in the individual market last year, its proposed rate increases are based to a large extent on CareFirst’s assumption that underlying health care costs will increase by almost 10 percent annually in 2017. That is unreasonable, and it is inconsistent with CareFirst’s own data. Moreover, the steep increases approved for CareFirst will just make it more likely that healthier individuals will not buy health insurance next year either on or off the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. We believe that Commissioner Redmer could have lowered CareFirst’s proposed increase to a more reasonable and affordable level.

To read the entire press release issued by Consumer Health First - click here.

CareFirst Defends Revised Rate Increase Requests Amid Public Opposition

The Maryland Insurance Administration held a second rate review hearing on Monday to address the revised increase on rates requested by CareFirst. Sarah Li, Chief Actuary for the Maryland Insurance Administration, opened the hearing with a number of specific questions including some that advocates share:

  • Why are CareFirst's Maryland premiums so much higher than those for DC subscribers? 

  • Are Marylanders being asked to subsidize DC residents' premiums, as the DC Insurance Commissioner has frozen CareFirst's rates for 2017?

CareFirst CEO, Chet Burrell, offered a detailed explanation of the revised rate request, citing nearly $300 million in losses during their first three years in the exchange and an "older, sicker" population than anticipated. He also stated that there was no subsidization of DC residents by Maryland consumers, and that the lower rates in DC were largely due to the fact that, unlike in Maryland, DC's risk pool includes small groups as well as consumers in the individual market.

In response, several consumers provided their individual perspectives on the negative impact CareFirst's requested rates would have on their own families and others like them, including small businesses who insure through the individual market. Chris Jakubiak, president of Jakubiak & Associates, Inc., has put off hiring additional employees because of the cost of health insurance, and Dan Meszler, a self-employed engineer, has had to leave the market entirely. Other consumers provided written comments on-line, as did the Health Education and Advocacy Unit of the Attorney General's Office, noting "Consumers who stay in these individual plans ... will never get their money back if excessive increases are allowed based on inaccurate or erroneous data and assumptions." 

Consumer Health First first presented its case for rejection of the rate request in its Baltimore Sun OpEd.  At Monday's hearing, we strongly urged Commissioner Redmer to not only reject CareFirst's new request, but to cut its initial request. Jeananne Sciabarra, Executive Director, was joined by Jay Angoff of Mehri & Skalet, who prepared our initial analysis. They reiterated the negative impact that the proposed premiums would have on consumers' pocketbooks and then laid out a substantive case for rejecting the CareFirst request. In addition to the affordability issue, they noted: 

  • Rate increases of this magnitude will push the healthiest consumers from the market altogether, or to other carriers, leaving CareFirst with only the sickest members, thus requiring large increases next year, and so on. In addition, these rates will discourage the young and healthy from entering the market, disrupting one of the core principles of the Affordable Care Act. 

  • These rate increases contradict the CMS report from last Thursday showing that, nationwide between 2014 and 2015, there has been little change in the cost per enrollee in the ACA individual market. 

As Mr. Angoff noted "There is just such a disconnect of such a magnitude between the CMS data and the CareFirst data, it just doesn't make sense."

For a complete summary of Ms. Sciabarra's testimony, click here.

Worried about what the impact of higher insurance rates may mean for you and your family? Read our in-depth Rate Review Analysis to learn more.

Our Op-Ed Regarding CareFirst's Rate Revision

Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston, penned an Op-Ed in The Baltimore Sun: In an unprecedented move, CareFirst, Maryland's largest insurance provider, just submitted a new rate filing for its plans in the individual market for calendar year 2017, more than doubling the rate increases it proposed in May to a whopping 28 percent for its HMO and 37 percent for its PPO business. We feel it's unjustified - and here's why.