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,

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

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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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

Oregon slashes 2014 health insurance premium requests by as much as 35 percent

Oregonians who buy their own insurance have the first clear indication of what 2014 premiums will look like after state regulators Tuesday slashed carriers' rate requests by as much as 35 percent.

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Media Hit | Health Care

OSPIRG: 16 Health Insurance Companies Need To Justify Rates

An Oregon consumer group says the 16 companies that have proposed insurance rates for the state's new health exchange haven't offered adequate justification for prices.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Proposed 2014 health insurance rates lack adequate justification

Sixteen Oregon health insurance companies have proposed their premium rates for next year, and according to new OSPIRG Foundation analysis released today, many have failed to adequately justify their prices.“With some insurers proposing rates twice as high as others for identical coverage, it is more critical than ever to scrutinize the basis for these rates,” said Jesse O’Brien, OSPIRG Foundation Health Care Advocate.

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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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News Release | OSPIRG | Health Care

Plan to Cut Health Care Waste Moves Ahead

This week, state officials advanced a plan to cut needless administrative paperwork -- red tape that wastes doctors’ time and adds to already unaffordable health care costs.

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