The Maine Bureau of Insurance has finalized the state’s 2020 rates for Affordable Care Act marketplace health insurance and submitted them to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In an unusual move, two of Maine’s three ACA marketplace insurance providers will reduce their average rates for individual insurance plans in 2020, while the other will increase its average rates by less than 1 percent, the bureau said. State officials noted that the Legislature passed a measure recently that could help lower ACA insurance rates even further in future years.

The unexpected easing of individual rates in Maine comes as the Trump administration continues Republican efforts to overturn the ACA, former President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

The Maine insurers – Community Health Options, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maine – have said new evidence has emerged that the ACA health insurance market has stabilized even further since their original rate filings in early June.

All three submitted lower, revised rate requests for individual plans in July. Lewiston-based Community Health went from a 7.7 percent increase to a 0.8 percent increase; Massachusetts-based Harvard Pilgrim from a 1.9 percent increase to a 7 percent decrease; and South Portland-based Anthem from a 1 percent increase to a 2 percent decrease. In recent years, the insurers have requested annual increases of up to 40 percent.

Rate requests for small-group insurance plans for businesses, however, remained much higher, with increases ranging from about 8 percent to 19 percent. Advocates for affordable health care in Maine say more work needs to be done to stabilize the ACA small-group insurance market.

Maine Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jackie Farwell noted that in the final days of the most recent legislative session, Gov. Janet Mills’ administration worked with the Legislature to pass language to give Maine the authority to examine new ways to make private health insurance more affordable through a state innovation waiver from the federal government.

Under the waiver, states may change the application of federal laws governing private health insurance, including the design of federal tax credits, as long as the resulting coverage was affordable, comprehensive, covered as many people and did not raise federal costs compared with current law, Farwell said.

Maine’s existing waiver enables the Maine Guaranteed Access Reinsurance Association, which reimburses health insurers for high-cost medical procedures, to receive roughly $62 million in federal funding to lower premiums for consumers in the individual health insurance market. While the existing waiver will continue, she said, the language adopted by the Legislature this session will result in more flexibility than previously allowed.

“It’s not a given that we will use the authority, but it provides us another option moving forward,” Farwell said. “There would be stakeholder input and a public comment period, followed by submission of a state plan to CMS for approval.”

 

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