The state Insurance Division approved a 5.1 percent rate increase yesterday for customers who have converted to private coverage from a group health insurance policy sold by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland.
About 11,000 people, including many who have been laid off or fired from their jobs, are covered by such policies, which are sold directly to individuals who previously were insured in group Blue Cross plans.
With the increase, the monthly premium for a middle-aged couple with a $250 deductible would be $405.74.
The rate increase was one-third the amount sought by Blue Cross. Sidney A. Green, chief assistant actuary for the Insurance Division, said Blue Cross projected a 20 percent increase in medical costs this year.
"We thought that was much too high," he said, adding that the U.S. Department of Labor estimates inflation for medical costs at about 8 percent compared with a general inflation rate of 5 percent.
Linda Benedict, Blue Cross vice president, said medical costs have risen 15 percent to 25 percent annually for several years.