COVID-19 likely to make health insurance more expensive for many in Maryland

People who buy their own health insurance in Maryland may find again that they must pay more next year, likely due to costs from the coronavirus pandemic.

The three carriers offering policies on Maryland’s health exchange or directly to consumers under the Affordable Care Act requested rate increases from state insurance regulators averaging 11%.


“It is clear from our ongoing monitoring of industry experience that 2021 claims were heavily influenced by COVID-19, and that the significant differences between where we were in 2021 and where we are likely to be in 2023 must be modeled and taken into account in rate development,” said Kathleen Birrane, the state’s insurance commissioner, in a statement.

The Maryland Insurance Administration will review the requests and set rates in September for the insurance, also known as Obamacare.


More than 222,000 individuals bought coverage on the Maryland exchange or through the insurers this year, with close to 80% tapping subsidies to help pay premiums. Most are not offered insurance by their employers.

Tens of thousands of Marylanders gained insurance during special enrollment periods for those who lost insurance during the pandemic. More people were added during the pandemic to the rolls of Medicaid, the federal-state health program for low-income residents.

Some now risk being removed from Medicaid as officials resume checking whether participants remain qualified, a practice that was suspended during the pandemic health emergency.

Federal subsidies added to private plans during the pandemic also will expire by the end of the year if Congress does not renew them, though most people will retain aid to buy their plans.

There are about 1.2 million Marylanders enrolled in income-based Medicaid plans and about 175,000 enrolled in private plans.

State regulators say they will take pandemic-related changes to costs and enrollment into account when they approve rates, along with the actual impact of the coronavirus on costs.

“Obtaining more detailed information on how COVID-19 claims experience has influenced cost and trend models for 2023 will be the primary focus for our actuarial team,” Birrane said.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state’s dominant carrier, asked for an average 11.2% rate increase in its HMO plan, which covers more than 149,000 people. That would mean an extra $30 a month for a policy holder with an average-priced silver plan, pushing it up to $353.


CareFirst requested a 25.9% rate increase for its PPO plan, which covers nearly 16,300 people.

United Healthcare is seeking an average 8.7% increase for its HMO plan. The monthly cost for a policy holder with a silver plan would rise by $28 to $363.

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Kaiser Permanente asked for an average 7.2% for its HMO plan, which covers almost 64,900 people. That would raise the premium for a policy holder with a silver plan by $14 to $275 a month.

“Kaiser Permanente’s proposed 2023 individual and family plan rates reflect the anticipated costs of providing high-quality health care and coverage for all our members over the long term,” Kaiser said in a statement. “We believe consumers will find us to be a competitive and comprehensive choice when they seek health coverage for 2023.”

Providers of health insurance for small businesses also requested an average 10% increase.

For the current year, state regulators ended up approving premium hikes for individuals averaging about 2.1% for the nearly three dozen plans offered by the three insurance companies on the exchange.


That followed several years of major reductions in costs due to a reinsurance program passed by the General Assembly that helped offset the bills for insurers from the costliest beneficiaries. It replaced a program killed by Republicans in the U.S. Congress.

The Maryland Insurance Administration expects to hold public hearings on the rate requests in July.

CareFirst and United Healthcare didn’t respond Wednesday to requests for comment.