Maryland Issues Health Insurance Rates That Are Among Lowest In U.S.

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Insurance rates for health plans that will be sold in the individual market through Maryland’s new health benefit exchange will have some of the lowest costs among the 12 states that have either proposed or approved rates, the state’s insurance commissioner said Friday.

The Maryland Insurance Administration approved premiums at levels as much as 33 percent below what had been requested by insurance carriers. For a 21-year-old non-smoker, for example, options start as low as $93 a month. Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith reduced the premium rates proposed by every insurance carrier in the individual market, including some by more than 50 percent, according to an analysis by Maryland officials who will be operating the marketplace.

The exchange plans come in different categories based on how costs are shared, known as bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Bronze plans have lower premiums but higher out-of-pocket costs like deductibles, co-pays and coinsurance.   The plans will be sold starting on Oct. 1 for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

Maryland health officials say they conducted an analysis on the approved rates and compared them to other states that have approved rates. A 50-year-old Maryland resident with a silver plan would pay between $260 a month to $269 a month. That’s about 18 percent less than a 50-year-old New York resident who would pay $319 per month for a silver plan there.

The lowest bronze plan for a 25-year-old in Maryland was $114, compared to $134 in Virginia, $146 in Colorado, $163 in Ohio, $167 in Washington state and $174 in California, the report said.

For silver plans for middle-aged adults, Maryland rates were lower than those proposed or approved in all other states except New Mexico, according to the analysis. The lowest price for a silver plan for a 50-year-old in Maryland is $260, compared to $319 in New York, $329 in Virginia, $343 in Colorado, $374 in Ohio, $376 in California, $392 in Washington state and $400 in Rhode Island, according to officials.

The Maryland Health Connection’s analysis revealed that an estimated three out of four Maryland residents who buy coverage through Maryland Health Connection will be eligible for tax credits to reduce the costs.

According to Maryland’s Health Secretary, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, an estimated 740,000 Maryland residents will have new access to health coverage with better benefits next year. He says it’s difficult to compare next year’s rates to rates that people currently pay for health insurance, because the plans are so different and individual experience will vary.

“We think that people have a lot of options in the Maryland Health Connection and they’ll have the peace of mind that they cannot be denied coverage,” Dr. Sharfstein said. “It’s so different. The benefits are different. The tax credits make it different because it brings different people to the market.”

The carriers whose rates have been approved for the individual market are: Aetna Life Insurance; All Savers Insurance Company; CareFirst BlueChoice Inc.; CareFirst of Maryland Inc.; Coventry Health and Life Insurance Company; Coventry Health Care of Delaware; Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc.; Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc.; and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States Inc.

Plans for groups, like small businesses, will be sold starting January 1st for coverage beginning March 1st. Those rates have not yet been approved by the insurance administration, officials say.

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