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

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Kitzhaber Administration takes action on health care costs

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Oregon's Drug Price Transparency Program has released its first annual report.  The progam found that Oregonians, on average, pay five times the highest international price for prescriptions.  

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