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New Insurance Rates Offer Mixed Bag For Marylanders

Stethoscope and piggy Bank taken by 401(K) 2012 via flickr

The Maryland Insurance Administration has posted new rates for next year’s individual insurance plans.

For customers with plans through Evergreen Health Cooperative, Kaiser or All Savers, the new rates are good news: those three companies will offer plans at lower rates than last year. But CareFirst, which has two companies selling insurance and represents the most Marylanders, will raise average rates as much as 14 percent.

There are two newcomers to the market: Cigna and United Healthcare of the MidAtlantic.

But even with some higher premiums, Maryland continues to have some of the lowest insurance rates in the country. Maryland Health Benefit Exchange executive Director Carolyn Quattrocki says that the state has typically had low rates, so any increases are on top of that lower baseline. She added that "many Marylanders...will qualify for substantial assistance to pay those premiums” in the form of federal subsidies offered through the state's online marketplace.

Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, says that the state has maintained relatively low rates because the number of insurers participating in the exchange keeps the marketplace competitive. And, he says, Maryland Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith has been effective in balancing insurers’ needs to cover costs with the need to keep rates low.

DeMarco adds that the state’s low rates should be taken as a reflection of the success of the federal health law in the state. “The fact that there are so many insurers participating, the fact that these rates are reasonable is very strong evidence that the Affordable Care Act is a success,” DeMarco says.

Customers who bought insurance on the health exchange last year will have to re-enroll this fall, and will be able to choose a different plan if they want to. Open enrollment starts November 15.