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Marylanders Torn Over New Healthcare Rates

Cropped SingleCare logo By | October 22, 2015

A potential rate increase for next year’s small group and individual healthcare plans has caused a stir in Maryland. What do these changes mean for Marylanders, and what are their choices for affordably priced care?

On September 4th, the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) announced new premium rate adjustments for both small group and individual health insurance plans for 2016. Many are worried that the price increase will stress their budgets. The MIA recommends that individuals shop around to find the best rate for their situations, and reminds them that they “may sign up for new plans or renew existing ones during the open enrollment period.”

Reportedly, these increases followed a rigorous review process and they are actually a reduction to the rates initially requested by insurance companies. Insurers originally wanted increases amounting to $66.4 million more than what was ultimately approved. But, even with the reduction of requested price hikes, premium rates have reached new heights in the state.

The MIA calculates that these changes will affect about 8% of Marylanders in total, stating that “approximately 4.2% of Marylanders are in the small group market and 3.9% are in the individual market.” This amounts to around 484,000 citizens who must take action due to oncoming rate hikes.

What These Changes Mean

The state’s largest insurer, CareFirst, has been granted the largest increases, and plans are expected to rise by roughly 26%. This is lower than a requested 30.4% boost, but it still comes as a shock to many whose budgets are already strained by the current cost..

According to insurance companies themselves, the uptick in payout costs is the result of an unexpected increase in the proportion of sick and elderly in their pool of insurees who filed claims. Michael Sullivan, a spokesperson for CareFirst, explained to the Washington Times: “We want the rates to cover the costs of actually providing the coverage and the care, and so that’s what these rates reflect.” He also points out that CareFirst is a non-profit insurer.

When people can’t afford care, federal assistance is intended to be there for those who need it. Carolyn Quattrocki, Executive Director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said in The Baltimore Sun that “nine out of ten people who enrolled in plans in 2015 received subsidies or Medicaid assistance.”

These subsidies will increase along with premiums, protecting Marylanders from unmanageable increases in their medical insurance costs. However, nearly half a million Maryland residents won’t qualify and will face considerably larger expenses that they will have to pay themselves.

Weighing Options For Healthcare In 2016

Given these changes, many adults in Maryland will be looking for affordable alternatives for treatment. This search will be crucial for the 10% of subsidy seekers who are not eligible for reimbursement and will be hit hardest by rate changes.

For many Marylanders, SingleCare can help cover those costs that their health insurance won’t. SingleCare is an on-demand service that provides access to quality healthcare at a reduced cost, regardless of whether you have insurance. Members can search for care from an expansive medical, dental, and pharmacy network and only pay for the care they receive — getting the treatment they require without copays, premiums, or unexpected fees.

Best of all, prices are listed alongside their providers, giving members the power to choose the price that works with their budget. While many worry about the changes in the healthcare market, there are options available that bridge coverage gaps left by insurance.

(Main image credit: PhotoMoe Photography/flickr)