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Some Maryland health insurers seek rate hikes for 2022

Maryland’s dominant health insurer, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, plans to raise rates for certain plans by about 8% for people buying their own coverage next year, a potential effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other consumers may see price breaks, as some insurers have said they could continue cutting premiums as they have largely been doing for the past three years.

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The proposed rates are for those who buy health insurance policies on the state’s health exchange created under the Affordable Care Act or they buy directly from an insurer, rather than receive benefits from their employer.

Rate increases are also proposed for those who buy small business coverage.

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“It is clear from our preliminary review of the rate filings that projections regarding the financial impact of COVID-19 on claim trends is a key factor in this year’s rate requests,” said Kathleen A. Birrane, the state’s insurance commissioner.

“It is also clear that there is a significant difference in those projections among carriers and across products,” she said. “We have already reached out to the carriers with our first set of questions, and understanding how carriers are accounting for COVID-19 is an important first focus for our actuarial team.”

The biggest requested rate increase of 7.9% was from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield’s HMO plans, which covered the most Marylanders this year with 144,992 enrolled.

The next largest share of Marylanders, 59,324 people, are covered under Kaiser Permanente’s HMO plans. That insurer requested a drop in premiums of 5%.

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Another 12,237 people are covered under CareFirst’s PPO plans. The company is requesting to drop premium costs by 7.3%.

UnitedHealthcare offers HMO plans cover 2,253 people, and the company requested an increase of 1% in premiums.

Officials attribute the declines in premiums to a 2019 reinsurance program created by the state that helps insurers cover the costs of their most expensive beneficiaries. It replaced a federal program cut by the Trump administration.

Before the program, rates had been skyrocketing, chasing insurers and people from the market. But the subsidies ended up cutting premiums by an average of 30% over three years.

The proposed rates would mean that a 40-year-old in Baltimore buying a mid-level CareFirst HMO plan would pay about $328 a month with a deductible of $2,250. Kaiser would offer the cheapest plan at $275 a month with a $3,200 deductible.

The small business plan premiums would go up under the proposed rates by an average of 7.2%. Several carriers are offering plans in 2022, with premium cost proposals ranging from a drop of 22.5% to an increase of 16%.

The Maryland Insurance Administration will hold hearings and set rates this summer. The first hearing will be held July 20 at 9:30 a.m.

Officials are preceding with their annual insurance reviews as the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to issue a ruling on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The case was brought by Republican states seeking to strike down the 2010 law that covers about 20 million Americans.

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