At This Rate...

The Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) published the approved rates for healthcare insurers in MD yesterday. CareFirst, the state's largest insurer for next year's individual market, sought an average rate increase of about 50.4 percent for its HMO plans, and regulators will allow just under 34.5 percent. The carrier requested an average rate increase of about 58.8 percent for its PPO plans, and regulators approved about 49.9 percent.

For Kaiser, insurance regulators plan to allow the insurer to raise rates an average of just over 22.6 percent, slightly less than the requested 23.4 percent.

Consumer Health First expressed deep concern about the effects of such a high rate increase on Marylanders and the stability of the state's insurance marketplace. From an article in today's Baltimore Sun:

“The state’s decision will have devastating consequences for consumers and the long-term sustainability of the individual market,” said Leni Preston, president of Consumer Health First. “We believe these rate increases are also inconsistent with CareFirst’s statutorily mandated mission to provide affordable and accessible health insurance to its members.”

Data shows that between 2014 and 2016, CareFirst's premiums on a per-member monthly basis increased 30 percent while its claims increased 16 percent and its expenses increased 24.2 percent. 

Experts say that if premiums are now covering claims, as this data suggests, enormous premium increases are not justified at this time. Insurers like CareFirst can still make a profit with smaller premium increases and by finding administrative efficiencies.

“We would urge Governor Hogan and our elected officials to continue to look for further steps to stabilize the individual market, such as a state reinsurance program, and to require the commissioner to expressly consider CareFirst’s statutory mission when reviewing rate filings in the future,” said Beth Sammis, former acting commissioner of the insurance administration and a Consumer Health First board member."

Consumer Health First issued a more detailed Press Release and further comments on these rates, and it can be read in its entirety here.