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Maryland Regulators Approve Higher Health Insurance Rates

BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland regulators approved higher health insurance premiums on Wednesday for individual silver plans bought through the state's health care exchange.

The Maryland Insurance Administration approved the increases that are expected to affect roughly 96,000 people who buy silver plans through the state's health insurance exchange. Regulators acted in response to President Donald Trump's decision to halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law he has been trying to undo for months.

Maryland regulators approved a 27 percent increase for CareFirst BlueCross Blue Shield for its HMO plan. That marks a hike from a 31.4 percent increase that was approved in August to a 58.2 percent increase. Regulators OK'd a 24 percent increase for CareFirst's PPO plan, from 52.1 percent approved in August to 76 percent.

The administration also approved a 20.7 percent increase for Kaiser Permanente, from a 22.7 percent increase in August to 43.4 percent.

The agency reopened rates earlier this month, after the announcement that federal cost-sharing reduction reimbursements would not be paid to carriers in 2018. Those cost-sharing payments reimburse insurers for providing lower-income people with discounts on out-of-pocket costs. Trump has said the subsidies should be explicitly authorized by Congress.

Attorneys general in 18 states, including Maryland, sought to force the federal government to resume paying the subsidies that Trump cut off, but a federal judge in California rejected the request on Wednesday.

The Maryland Insurance Administration said tax credits will rise due to the increased premium rates. Regulators said in a news release that the increase in tax credits will largely offset the impact of the rate increase. The state's insurance administration also noted that carriers will not be changing premium rates for their off-exchange silver plans, so consumers could avoid the rate increase entirely by moving off of the state's health care exchange.

The open enrollment period when Americans who do not have health insurance through their employers can start picking their plans is scheduled to run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

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(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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