CareFirst Encourages Md. Residents To Closely Compare Options During 2019 Open Enrollment

Consumers could save money by shopping around more this year

Baltimore, MD (November 12, 2018) - Members of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) and other individuals shopping for 2019 health insurance coverage in Maryland can expect to find significantly lower monthly premium rates for CareFirst products offered during the Open Enrollment period that began Nov. 1.

In 2019, rates for CareFirst’s Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans sold at the Gold, Silver and Bronze levels are decreasing by an average of 17 percent, compared with 2018’s rates. The company’s rates for Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans sold at all three metal levels are about 11 percent lower than last year, on average.

The double-digit rate decreases are the result of landmark legislation passed earlier this year by Maryland lawmakers, providing significant premium relief to Maryland residents who purchase individual coverage in 2019 and 2020.

For CareFirst members currently enrolled in a PPO plan, the savings offered by a comparable HMO product could be even greater. While CareFirst’s PPO rates are lower this year, HMO products with similar benefits and networks offered by the region’s largest health insurer are between 29 percent and 43 percent lower than the PPO product.

All of this means consumers shopping for health care during the 2019 Open Enrollment period, which ends Dec. 15, 2018, should closely examine their coverage options. Consider the coverage level, as well as the cost. Review the provider networks and compare deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. For some individuals, a different product could offer much better value for similar access to care.

"CareFirst is committed to helping our members and other Maryland residents manage their health care costs by reducing premium rates in 2019 and raising awareness of the lower-cost options available to them during this Open Enrollment period," CareFirst President & CEO Brian D. Pieninck said. "This year, it will be very important for consumers to clearly understand their options. If they do, they will have choices that could save them money on their health care expenses, not just curb the increases they’ve experienced in the past."

Members who are unsure about switching from a CareFirst PPO plan to an HMO plan should ask themselves the following questions.

  • Are my current providers – including mental health providers – participating in the BlueChoice HMO network? To find out if your providers participate in BlueChoice, use our Find a Doctor tool. Ninety-three percent of doctors in CareFirst’s PPO network participate in the BlueChoice HMO network.
  • When I travel or leave the local area, am I OK if I am only covered in the event of an emergency? The HMO products limit out-of-area coverage to emergency care and online doctor visits through CareFirst Video Visit.
  • Is LabCorp a convenient option each time I need lab work? The HMO network requires members to use one of LabCorp’s 91 locations in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia.

Consumers can contact CareFirst at 800-358-9854 or visit our site, speak with an insurance broker, or contact the Maryland Health Connection to learn more about their choices for 2019 coverage.

About CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

In its 80th year of service, CareFirst, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, is a not-for-profit health care company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to 3.2 million individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia. In 2017, CareFirst invested more than $33 million to improve overall health, and increase the accessibility, affordability, safety and quality of health care throughout its market areas. To learn more about CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn or Instagram.