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

A New Health Care Marketplace is Coming: Get Informed and Protect Yourself from Fraud | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

In just a few weeks, Oregon’s new health insurance marketplace, Cover Oregon, will be open for business. Any new program can be confusing for people at first, and scam artists and unscrupulous business ventures may try to take advantage of that confusion to rip off consumers. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, be sure to check out these top tips for protecting yourself from fraud.

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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.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Over $69 Million in Waste Cut from 2014 Health Insurance Premiums

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, according to a new OSPIRG Foundation report released today. The new cuts come after OSPIRG Foundation’s analysis questioned the justifications of five major rate proposals. Taken together with cuts made since new standards were implemented, state officials have required insurers to cut $155 million in waste since 2010.

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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
Media Hit | Health Care

Hooray! Few Oregonians receive health insurance rebates

As health insurance companies spread $500 million in rebates to families around the U.S. this summer, Oregonians won’t represent a huge chunk of the recipients. That’s a good thing, argues Jesse Ellis O’Brien, health care advocate at the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG).

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Media Hit | Health Care

Oregon Insurance Division OKs 12.8 percent health insurance rate increase, rejects 22 percent

The Oregon Insurance Division will allow the state's largest health insurer to raise rates on individual premiums an average 12.8 percent, far lower than the 22.1 percent the company had requested.

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Media Hit | Health Care

State decision draws reactions from Regence, consumers’ group

The Statesman Journal’s Editorial Board recently met with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon regarding their proposed increase for individual plans. A ruling by the state’s insurance division prompted these statements today:

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Media Hit | Health Care

22 percent rate increase by Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon brings out strong protest

Concerns about surging health care costs drove more than 150 people Thursday to hear Oregon's largest health insurer defend its request to raise premiums an average 22 percent.

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Media Hit | Health Care

Oregon Insurer Raising Rates

GUESTS:

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Media Hit | Health Care

Health insurance premium hikes

Laura Etherton goes toe to toe with Regence President Jared Short on KGW's Straight Talk.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Building a Better Health Care Marketplace: Ensuring Accountability

The creation of a new health insurance exchange offers states an opportunity to improve health care and lower costs by pooling consumers’ bargaining power, creating economies of scale, and pushing insurers toward delivering lower costs and higher quality.

> Keep Reading
Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on Health Net's Rate Increase Proposal

Health Net Health Plan of Oregon is proposing an average 8.27% rate increase on small business plans impacting 37,872 Oregonians, effective April 1, 2011.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on United HealthCare's Proposed Rate Hike

In this rate filing, United HealthCare does not appear to justify the proposed 16.8% increase.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Delivering on the Promise

The recently passed federal health care reform law will make significant changes in how health insurance and health care work for consumers, businesses, and local and state governments, as well as how insurers and providers operate.  But whether Americans experience improved care, lower costs and greater access depends largely on what happens next.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Premiums on the Rise

In 2008, over 400,000 Oregonians received an average rate increase over 4 times the rate of inflation, with 133,000 Oregonians hit with premium increases over 21%.

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