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Coronavirus, inflation push up cost of health insurance in Maryland – Baltimore Sun

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Those who buy their own health insurance in Maryland will pay an average of 6.6% more next year, about 4.4% less than the carriers requested, according to the Maryland Insurance Administration, which approved the increases.

State agency officials said in May when insurers asked for the increases that they expected coronavirus pandemic-related costs to push up the price of health insurance offered in Maryland by the three carriers under the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

Since then, rising inflation has become a factor, though the approved rate increases fall below the pace of inflation that averaged 8.4% this year, noted Kathleen A. Birrane, Maryland’s insurance commissioner.

The increases affect more than 232,000 people who buy insurance through the state’s health exchange or directly from an insurance company. Most of them aren’t offered insurance by their employers.

The rolls grew in the past year through special enrollment periods aimed at reaching people who lost jobs and insurance during the pandemic. Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for low-income residents also grew, though the state is resuming checks to see whether people still qualify after a pause during the health emergency.

Under the approved increases, rates for a 40-year-old Baltimore area resident on the lowest cost silver plan would rise:

  • 3.8% for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s HMO plan that covers more than 149,000 people. Monthly premiums would go up $12 to $335.
  • 13.3% for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s PPO plan that covers nearly 16,300. The premiums would go up $60 to $513.
  • 4.5% for United Healthcare’s HMO plan, pushing premiums up $15 to $350.
  • 2.7% for Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plan, pushing premiums up $7 to $268.

About 80% of people get federal subsidies to help cover the cost of those premiums. Those will continue to be enhanced under legislation recently passed by Congress through the Inflation Reduction Act.

That should help people continue with insurance they bought during the pandemic, in addition to other subsidies for young adults and other existing subsidies, said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

“The past few years have proven that Marylanders recognize the importance of having health coverage,” she said in a statement. “Although health plan prices are increasing for some Marylanders, there are savings available. We are grateful that the Inflation Reduction Act keeps financial help in place for many people through 2025.”

The cost of plans had dropped for several years after a reinsurance program passed by the General Assembly in 2018 helped offset the costs associated with the most expensive beneficiaries. Birrane credited the program with preventing higher rate increases.

“The reinsurance program continues to do its job,” Birrane said in a statement.

“The 2023 rate changes are tied to increasing claim costs and projections as to what those costs are likely to be in 2023, given claim cost trends. Inflation, increased unit costs for services, increased utilization and the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-related costs, are all significant factors influencing rates,” she said. “Nonetheless, we have been able to keep rates below inflationary trends thanks to the reinsurance program.”

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CareFirst officials noted in a statement that while the state’s reinsurance program has been a stabilizing force, there is still a need to find ways to reduce the underlying cost of health care.

“CareFirst looks forward to collaborating on future initiatives to advocate to reduce the cost of care and make healthcare more affordable,” it said in a statement.

Kaiser officials said in a statement that rates for 2023 reflect “the anticipated costs of providing high-quality health care and coverage for all our members over the long term.”

UnitedHealthcare didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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