ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Newly approved 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.
Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith approved the rates after reviewing proposals from insurance companies and considering public comments. The approved premiums are as much as 33 percent below what had been requested, according to the state's insurance administration.
"Consumers will find a wide variety of plans available through Maryland Health Connection," Goldsmith said in a statement. "Over the last few months, actuaries, analysts, and policy form experts meticulously evaluated hundreds of plan designs and their corresponding rate filings for plans to be sold on Maryland Health Connection."
The plans will be sold starting on Oct. 1 for coverage beginning Jan. 1.
The Maryland Insurance Administration reviewed submissions from nine carriers, including two that are new to the state.
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.
Maryland health officials 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.
The analysis by the Maryland Health Connection also noted 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.
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Maryland's health secretary, said an estimated 740,000 Maryland residents will have new access to health coverage with better benefits next year.
Sharfstein said 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," Sharfstein said. "It's so different. The benefits are different. The tax credits make it different because it brings different people to the market."
Plans for groups like small businesses will be sold starting Jan. 1 for coverage beginning March 1. Those rates have not yet been approved by the insurance administration.
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.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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