UnitedHealthcare Returns to Md. Marketplace

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UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies, will again offer policies in Maryland next year, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) announced on Tuesday.

The firm, which pulled out of the Maryland market in 2017, has filed to offer individual health plans through the Maryland Health Connection in 2021.

Currently Marylanders who lack coverage through their employers —  and aren’t eligible for Medicaid or Medicare — can purchase plans from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente on the state’s Affordable Care Act portal.

Stan Dorn, Director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation, said UnitedHealthcare’s decision to re-enter Maryland “says great things about the approach the Maryland Exchange has been taking.”

He said the state’s recently bolstered reinsurance market (financial support to offset claims from high-cost consumers) and its efforts to get as many people covered as possible have made the state attractive for carriers like United.

“Consumers are better off and carriers can do their jobs without going broke,” he said. “This says to other states they should think seriously about following in Maryland’s footsteps.”

Under a new program launched this year, uninsured residents can check a box on their state tax forms to determine if they’re eligible for low- or no-cost coverage. The state also created a special open-enrollment period for people who’ve lost coverage due to the pandemic.

“Maryland has really put itself on the cutting edge of smart state health policy,”  said Dorn, who lives in Montgomery County.

Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery), a leading voice in the legislature on health matters, said the addition of a third carrier is particularly welcome news now.

“In the United States, most people still get their health insurance from their employers,” he said. “And at a time when you’ve got millions of Americans unemployed and filing for unemployment insurance, more and more folks are at risk of losing their employer-based health insurance and are going to go to the independent market.”

In a statement, Hogan said “it’s more important than ever for Marylanders to have access to a robust marketplace with different options to suit their needs.”

Rising costs led to United’s decision to stop offering policies in Maryland three years ago. Its parent company, UnitedHealth Group, based in Minnetonka, Minn., is the largest health care company in the world.

“We are thrilled to have another insurance company entering the marketplace, so that Marylanders across the state will have more options to choose a health plan that works best for themselves and their families,” said Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

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Bruce DePuyt
Bruce DePuyt spent nearly three decades on local television, including 14 years as executive producer and host of News Talk on NewsChannel 8 in the Washington, D.C., area. He has served as reporter, anchor and producer/host of 21 This Week in Montgomery County and as reporter/anchor at NBC affiliate WVIR-TV in Charlottesville, VA. He's a regular contributor to WTOP (103.5 FM) and frequently moderates community and political events.