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Maryland health insurers to announce rates after hike request

People buying health insurance through the state health exchange are about to get an idea of how much more they will have to pay for their plans next year — and there is likely to be sticker shock.

There are two carriers left selling Obamacare plans in the state after three exited the market, and the Maryland Insurance Administration is expected to announce Friday how much they will be allowed to charge.

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The state's dominant insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield requested an average 52 percent increase in premiums next year. Kaiser Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic asked for an average increase of about 25 percent.

The requests have drawn criticism from consumers and advocates, such as Leni Preston, president of Consumer Health First.

She said the group’s analysis found CareFirst’s requested rates to be unjustified and contrary to the insurer’s mission of providing affordable insurance.

"A large increase would negatively impact individual consumers, particularly those who do not receive a subsidy, and it would lead to the destabilization of Maryland's individual insurance market," Preston said. "We believe these effects run contrary to the best interest of Marylanders and our long- term interests."

The carriers say they have been losing millions of dollars on the plans, as enrollees have been far more expensive to cover than anticipated. Further, confusion about changes to the health law by Congress and the Trump administration also have driven up the rate requests, they said.

About 130,000 people bought Obamacare plans in Maryland this year, mostly people who do not get health insurance through their employers. The bulk get help with premiums and others get out-of-pockets subsidies; the rates will most affect the thousands who get no assistance.

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