Mainers shopping on can choose from more insurers in 2015. After a plucky startup overtook the state’s largest health insurer for signups in the marketplace’s first year, a third player left the sidelines and joined the fray.

Maine Community Health Options

The Lewiston-based health insurer captured about 80 percent of shoppers in Maine during the first enrollment period. Not bad for a startup that didn’t even exist before the Affordable Care Act, which made taxpayer-funded loans available for the creation of health insurance “co-ops” run by members. While many co-ops in other states failed to reach enrollment targets, Maine Community Health Options emerged as a model of success, showing up a well-established rival and offering competitive prices.

Maine Community Health Options is back at it again in 2015, with premium rates largely holding steady. The monthly premium for its best-selling plan fell by about half a percentage point, while the insurer raised rates by 1 percent on one of its less popular plans.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield

The granddaddy of Maine health insurers, Anthem counted more than 18,000 Mainers as customers in the “individual market” — those who buy their own coverage rather than get benefits through work — before launched in 2013. That was nearly twice the enrollment of its next closest competitor. But even with the backing of corporate parent WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, Anthem enrolled about 20 percent of enrollees in Maine for 2014 plans.

In 2015, Anthem could be poised for a comeback. It reduced premium costs by 1.1 percent on average.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care

Harvard Pilgrim is the new kid on the block, offering four plans through the marketplace for 2015. But the nonprofit insurer is no stranger to health reform, having once served as the carrier for Dirigo Health, Maine’s pioneering but now-defunct effort to boost the number of Mainers with health insurance.

With three insurers to choose from, instead of two, Maine consumers are reaping the rewards of a major goal of the ACA, to increase insurer competition, health experts say.

All three insurers, plus Aetna, also will offer health plans outside of, directly to consumers and through health insurance brokers. Those plans aren’t eligible for federal subsidies.

Jackie Farwell

I'm the health editor for the Bangor Daily News, a Bangor native, a UMaine grad, and a weekend crossword warrior. I never get sick of writing about Maine people, geeking out over health care data, and...