If you’re from Maryland it’s about to get a lot more expensive to stay healthy. Those insured through the individual health exchange will see their premiums soar by as much as 50% in 2018.
Al Redmer Jr., the Maryland Insurance Commissioner, approved the final rate hikes, with average increases ranging from 34.5% to 50%, depending on the plan and carrier. The significant increases are expected to put financial pressure on consumers who do not get government subsidies. It could also still leave insurers in the red.
CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States, two insurers who offer coverage, told the Maryland Insurance Administration that they have lost a combined $447.0 million since policies started selling under former President Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2014.
“Rates for individual plans have gone up well over 100 percent in 4 years,” said Chet Burrell, president and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “It’s the worst of all worlds now with very high premiums and at the same time carrier losses continue.”
More than 240,000 Marylanders are currently enrolled in individual health plans.
It could have been a lot worse. CareFirst, which has about 75% of the exchange market, made the highest requests. The carrier was looking for an average rate increase of about 50.4% for its HMO (health maintenance organization) plans. Regulators will allow just under 34.5%.
For its preferred provider organization plans, CareFirst was looking for an average rate increase of about 58.8%. Regulators approved a rate hike of around 49.9%.
“We have reached the point where individual health care premium rates are too high to be readily affordable by the general public,” said Burrell. “The rapid rise in these premiums puts coverage out of reach for many — especially those who do not qualify for federal subsidies.”
Burrell noted that CareFirst has experienced enormous financial losses over the last four years totaling $500.0 million, providing coverage to individual subscribers. The losses were a result of inadequate premium rates that, despite being high, are not sustainable.
“As a not-for-profit carrier, CareFirst seeks only to cover the cost of providing healthcare coverage for its individual subscribers and does not seek profit on such policies,” Burrell concluded. “So far, the company has come nowhere near financial stability and believes that even with the approved 2018 rates, that financial losses will continue.”
“The Maryland Insurance Administration Approves Non-Medigap Premium Rates for 2018 Small Group and Individual Markets,” Maryland Insurance Administration, August 29, 2017.
“Statement on Maryland Insurance Administration Affordable Care Act Rate Approvals,” CareFirst, August 29, 2017.