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Md.'s temporary fix for health insurance rates

After years of instability and rising health care costs for consumers, Consumer Health First was thrilled to see the two insurance carriers for Maryland’s individual market — CareFirst and Kaiser Permanente — lower their premium rates for next year. This is fantastic news for consumers and shows the power of bipartisan collaboration from policymakers.

However, as The Baltimore Sun notes in its editorial (“Bipartisanship saved Md.’s Obamacare exchange for now; here’s what we need to do next,” Sept. 17), the approval of the state’s reinsurance program that led to these lower rates has funding for only three years. Therefore, it is just a temporary solution for rising premiums. With the federal government continuing to undermine the Affordable Care Act, Maryland’s leaders must work together to find long-term, sustainable solutions to ensure that health care is affordable and accessible for all consumers.

Maintaining the reinsurance program would be an important step forward, but there are other options to provide more affordable coverage while stabilizing Maryland's individual market. Many of these will be studied by the Health Insurance Coverage and Protection Commission chaired by Sen. Brian Feldman and Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk. One option is the establishment of a statewide individual mandate, which we endorse.

Another proposal that has the potential to provide greater affordability and consumer choice would be a public option. With this, consumers can choose to purchase alternative health plans offered through Maryland's excellent Medicaid program. Consumer advocates in other states, such as New Mexico and Colorado, have identified a public option as a lower-cost alternative for the individual market that would improve choice for thousands of consumers who have no other affordable options for insurance.

Beth Sammis, Potomac

The writer is president of Consumer Health First.

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