Maryland AG wants to cap rate hikes till exchanges open

Maryland regulators should place a cap on the amount insurers can increase premiums for plans sold through the state-run health insurance exchange, the attorney general said Tuesday.

"We need to freeze the rates for Maryland consumers and then make decisions based on the reality on the ground, not projections that serve the needs of insurance company executives," Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler said in a statement. "Some insurance executives are threatening rate hikes of 25 percent, reaching 100 to 150 percent for some consumers, and Maryland families can't afford that."

Gansler was referring to the market's leading insurer, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, which wants to raise rates by 25 percent for individual plans sold on the online marketplace.

To prevent similar "massive" rate hikes, according to Gansler, state regulators shouldn't allow insurers to increase premiums by more than 5 percent more than the same plan would cost outside the exchange. The cap can then be re-examined six months after the exchanges open, reported The Baltimore Sun.

"We don't know what is going to happen to healthcare costs, but the insurance companies are preying upon the idea that they will rise to jack up premium costs," Gansler added.

In response to Gansler's cap proposal, CareFirst said its 25 percent rate hike request is based in reality, the Washington Examiner reported. "Premiums closely reflect actual cost. That is essentially what CareFirst has sought to achieve in its filings and nothing more," the insurer said.

To learn more:
- here's the attorney general statement
- read the Baltimore Sun article
- see the Washington Examiner article

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