The Trump administration has approved a waiver allowing Maryland to create a reinsurance program designed to curb skyrocketing individual health care insurance premiums, the state’s top elected leaders said Wednesday.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who worked together to come up with the reinsurance program and jointly asked Congress earlier this year to stabilize the market, made the announcement during a news conference.
The event was filled with friendly banter among the trio and praise over the state’s bipartisan solution to stave off rate hikes and make health care more affordable.
“These problems should have been solved in Washington a long time ago, but they haven’t been, and there’s surely plenty of blame to go around. But in Annapolis we’ve chosen a different path,” Hogan said before thanking Miller and Busch for their partnership. “Here in Annapolis together, we decided to take action ourselves to stabilize the individual marketplace and to prevent crushing insurance rate increases for Marylanders.”
Many states have taken action this year to counteract efforts in Washington to chip away at the Affordable Care Act. Maryland is one of several that asked the federal government for permission to create a reinsurance fund or a pool of money that will essentially serve as insurance for insurance companies. The pool is financed by health insurers and designed to protect them from the risk of covering customers who need expensive medical services.
The state plans to levy a surcharge of about $380 million on insurance companies that do business in Maryland, which are paying about that much less in federal taxes this year because of a one-time exemption provided by an overhaul of the U.S. tax code.
Secretary of Health Robert R. Neall said Wednesday that the reinsurance program will “make a big difference in the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Marylanders” by heading off premium increases of nearly 50 percent.
State officials said that the reinsurance program, which remains in place through 2020, is expected to lead to a 30 percent reduction in rates from what they would have been without the waiver and that the enrollment in the state’s individual market is expected to grow next year by nearly 6 percent.
“This was a team effort — the most important team effort we had during this legislative session,” Busch said.
Miller told Hogan during the news conference that he never thought the governor would agree to the plan. Hogan chuckled.
“Before Bobby Neall got to him, I don’t think he would have,” Miller said with a smirk.
Vincent DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said he was happy to see the state come up with a “short-term solution,” but he is continuing to push the state to enact a health insurance down-payment program that would replace the repealed federal individual mandate, fine people who don’t have insurance and then use that money to help cover their health-care costs.