Health Insurance Rate Watch Project

OSPIRG Foundation’s Health Insurance Rate Watch Project is conducting in-depth analysis of insurers' rate hike requests, sharing our findings with state officials and the general public, and encouraging the public to participate in Oregon’s rate review process.

Scrutinizing Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Oregonians have reached a breaking point on health care costs: At the current rate, the cost of covering the average Oregon family could rise to more than $21,000 a year by 2019. [1] At the same time, studies show that a third or more of every dollar we spend on health care is wasted on something that does not improve our health. [2]

Health insurance companies could be lowering costs by cutting administrative bloat, driving a hard bargain with hospitals on prices, paying doctors to keep people healthy rather than to order expensive treatments, and passing on those savings to customers. But too often, they just keep raising rates on their customers without doing these things. [3]

Thankfully, state officials, led by the Oregon Insurance Division, have significantly stepped up their scrutiny of health insurers’ rate hike requests. Since 2010, it made cuts to a majority of requests, cutting over $179 million in waste. [4] Highlights include:

  • Regence BlueCross BlueShield (2011): $12.5 million in waste cut, over $200 per person, when the state knocked back a 22% proposed increase nearly in half.
     
  • Providence (2013): $17.9 million in waste cut when the state trimmed back proposed rates by over 20%.

OSPIRG Foundation’s Health Insurance Rate Watch Project is doing our part by conducting in-depth analysis of insurers' rate hike requests, sharing our findings with state officials and the general public, and encouraging the public to participate in Oregon’s rate review process.

Our work is supported in part by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and from a grant of federal funds by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. The project is supported by Grant Number IPRPR0057A from Department of Health and Human Services Office of Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CCIIO.

Learn more about Oregon's rate review process--and sign up to get notified about major rate proposals--at the Oregon Insurance Division's consumer-friendly website, www.oregonhealthrates.org

Our project is guided by an Advisory Board of community leaders and experts, including:

  • Jerry Cohen of AARP-Oregon
  • Jim Houser of Hawthorne Auto Clinic.

[1] For employer coverage, based on 2009-2014 trends. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Employee Health Benefits: 2014 Summary of Findings

[2] Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Feb. 2011, The Healthcare Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes: infographic and report.

[3] For some real-life examples of cutting waste out of health care, see Atul Gawande's "Overkill," The New Yorker, May 2015.

[4] OSPIRG Foundation, September 2014, Accountability in Action.

Issue updates

Blog Post | Health Care

Will Oregon’s health reforms deliver results for consumers? A new study raises some tough questions. | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

According to a new study, Oregon’s efforts to transform health care are not yet delivering on their potential to improve the consumer experience.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

The Whole Shebang at a Glance: Proposed Health Insurance Rates for 2016 | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Here’s the skinny on OSPIRG Foundation’s new analysis of 2016 rates proposed by four Oregon insurers—LifeWise, Moda, PacificSource and Regence. There’s some good news, some concerning news, and some very concerning news, but the best news of all is that thanks to Oregon’s health insurance rate review process, the insurers don’t get the last word.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on PacificSource Health Plan's proposal to raise individual health insurance rates

PacificSource Health Plan members with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 42.7% on average, and as high as 60.4%, if the premium rate hike proposed by PacificSource goes forward. PacificSource’s increase is the largest proposed by a major health insurance carrier in Oregon’s individual market since 2010, when new rules heightening scrutiny of health insurance rates were implemented.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon's proposal to raise individual health insurance rates

Regence BlueCross BlueShield’s membership of more than 24,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 12.3% on average, if the premium rate hike proposed by Regence goes forward. Some Regence members in transitional plans that will be discontinued at the end of the current year, which do not include the consumer protections of the federal health reform law, may see increases of up to 235% if they stick with Regence.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon's proposal to raise individual health insurance rates

LifeWise Health Plan of Oregon’s 26,405 members with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 37.2%on average, and as high as 45%, if the premium rate hike proposed by LifeWise goes forward.

> Keep Reading

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Regence rate hike scaled back

State officials have decided to trim Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon’s proposal to raise rates for more than 52,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans. Instead of the 9.6% rate hike proposed, the Oregon Insurance Division approved an 8.9% average increase, with some consumers seeing increases as high as 15.6%. Regence does not appear to have resolved many of the problems identified in OSPIRG Foundation's analysis of their proposal. In addition, elements of the decision were based on information that was not made available to the public.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Regence Rate Hike Not Justified

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon’s proposal to raise rates for Oregonians with individual health insurance plans does not measure up, according to a new OSPIRG Foundation analysis.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Health Care

Regence BlueCross BlueShield defends proposed rate hike at Salem hearing

Escalating medical and prescription drug costs have given Regence BlueCross BlueShield executives little choice but to raise rates an average 9.6 percent for people who buy their own insurance, an executive told Oregon insurance regulators Monday.

Jesse Ellis O'Brien of the OSPIRG Foundation said Oregonians will face less choice and more costs as a result of the proposal.

> Keep Reading
Media Hit | Health Care

Regence Reduces Payments to Healthcare Professionals

July 26, 2012 -- Physicians and other healthcare professionals are being hit with a rate reduction from Regence BlueCross BlueShield on October 1, while the insurer is asking the Insurance Division to approve a 9.6 percent increase for roughly 53,000 people who buy their own coverage. A public hearing on that rate request will be held next Monday at 3 p.m. in Salem.

> Keep Reading
News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Providence Customers May See Rates Rise As Much As 18.6%

 

More than 12,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 15.7% on average, and as high as 18.6%, if the premium rate hike posted today by Providence Health Plans goes forward. Many customers will also see increased out-of-pocket costs.

 

> Keep Reading

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Report | OSPIRG | Health Care

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Tips for consumers deciding whether to keep their individual health insurance plan or switch to a new plan for 2014.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Accountability in Action

Close scrutiny of proposed health insurance premiums for 2014 has cut over $69 million in waste and unjustified costs from premiums for Oregon consumers and small businesses. This brings the total waste cut by Oregon’s rate review program to over $155 million since 2010, providing more evidence that Oregon’s effort to create accountability for health insurers is starting to pay off.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comment on Providence Health Plan's Proposed Individual Health Insurance Rates

Providence Health Plan has proposed premium rates for its individual and family plans for 2014. The insurer initially filed for significantly higher rates than Oregon’s other top insurance companies,   but then proposed lowering the rates. Doing so would bring the rates in line with those of competing insurers. OSPIRG Foundation's analysis of Providence's initial filing and the supplemental information provided raises some concerns about the insurer's proposal and its justification.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comment on Kaiser Foundation Health Plan's Proposed Individual Health Insurance Rates

Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Northwest has proposed premium rates for its individual and family plans for 2014. Since its initial rate filing, the insurer has submitted a proposal to reduce those rates. OSPIRG Foundation's analysis of Kaiser’s initial filing and the supplemental information provided raises some concerns about the insurer's proposal and its justification.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comment on BridgeSpan Health Company's Proposed Individual Health Insurance Rates

BridgeSpan Health Company—a new health insurer affiliated with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon through a parent company, Cambia Health Solutions—has proposed premium rates for its individual and family plans for 2014. OSPIRG Foundation's analysis raises questions about the insurer's justification for the proposal, and about BridgeSpan's efforts to reduce costs by cutting waste and focusing on prevention.

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Blog Post | Health Care

All you need to know about the 2014 health insurance rate decisions--in one chart! | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Scrutiny of health insurance rates has cut over $69 million in waste and unjustified costs from 2014 premiums. This chart breaks it down for you.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Few Oregonians will receive health insurance rebate checks this year—Here’s why that’s a good thing | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

This summer, consumers and businesses nationwide will receive $500 million in rebates from health insurance companies. Only 1 in every 200 Oregonians will see a dime as a result of this program, and that’s great news for our state. Here’s why.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Competition and Transparency Bring Down Health Insurance Costs—Here’s the Proof | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Something remarkable just happened to health insurance costs here in Oregon. Last week, after the state’s health insurers posted their proposed premium rates for next year, two insurers publicly reversed course and moved to cut their prices.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

A new way of shopping for health insurance gets a trial run | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

 

For the first time, the Oregon Health Insurance Exchange brought in consumers and outside experts to review their designs for their online marketplace. I was there, and here’s some of what I learned.

> Keep Reading
Blog Post | Health Care

Here’s that Rx refill you didn’t order | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

Is your pharmacy refilling your prescription without your knowledge or approval, and billing your insurance company for the cost? If so, it’s the latest example of waste we shouldn't tolerate in our health care system.

> Keep Reading

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