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

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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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.

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Result | Health Care

Governor Kitzhaber To Pursue Strengthened Scrutiny for Health Insurance Rates

Following an OSPIRG Foundation report recommending changes to Oregon's health insurance rate review process to make it more effective, Governor Kitzhaber has announced that his administration will take the next steps.

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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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Media Hit | Health Care

Consumers deserve a voice on insurance rate increases

Can Regence justify its rate hike? A public hearing will shine needed light

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Regence Rate Hike Could Hit 25% for Some Businesses

According to a new analysis conducted by OSPIRG Foundation’s Health Insurance Rate Watch project, Regence has more work to do to justify their pending rate hike.

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Media Hit | Health Care

How the Oregon House can help our state's small businesses

I own a small business in Sunriver and have driven to Salem many times over the years to provide state officials with a small-business perspective about Oregon's health insurance exchange. Those trips weren't convenient, but I did it because the exchange is so important to small businesses like mine.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Effective Health Exchange Key to Lower Costs

Oregon policy-makers can address rising health care costs by implementing an effective health insurance exchange, according to a new policy brief released today by consumer advocacy group OSPIRG.

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Pages

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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