Baltimore Sun
September 14, 2018
Michael Dresser

Marylanders covered by Obamacare plans purchased on the individual market are likely to see hefty decreases in their 2019 premium thanks to legislation the General Assembly adopted this year with bipartisan support.

The two providers active on the insurance exchange for individual plans in the state, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente, have told the Maryland Insurance Administration they want to reverse their earlier requests for rate increases averaging about 30 percent.

Instead, CareFirst is now proposing a decrease of 22.3 percent and Kaiser a 7.8 percent drop in their health maintenance organization plans.

The declines would follow several years of steady increases in rates on the individual market, which serves people who don’t have insurance through their employers.

The change is the result of a reinsurance plan passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature with the support of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The legislation was hailed by both parties as an example of bipartisan cooperation to hold down Marylanders’ insurance rates in the face of actions by the Republican U.S. Congress and President Donald Trump seeking to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

The decreases need the approval of the insurance administration, which will hold a hearing Monday on the requests.

An advocacy group for expanded health care coverage welcomed the moves. Stephanie Klapper, deputy director of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said the action by lawmakers and Hogan would keep premiums from skyrocketing.

“We need to build on this success to stabilize premiums over the long term by passing two key pieces of legislation in 2019,” Klapper said.

She urged lawmakers to approve what is called the Health Insurance Down Payment Plan, which would give uninsured taxpayers a choice between buying insurance and paying a premium, and to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to regulate pharmaceutical prices.

“These two measures would help stabilize the insurance market, bring down premiums and make life-saving drugs more affordable for Marylanders,” she said.

The down payment plan would fill a financing gap left by Congress’ repeal of the federal health care coverage mandate under Obamacare.

The drug affordability legislation would set up a clash between health care advocates and the pharmaceutical industry.

Last modified: September 14, 2018