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Portland Business Journal
Elizabeth Hayes

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). Only one in every 200 Oregonians will see a dime from the rebates, which are tied to a federal rule requiring insurers to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on providing medical care or refund the difference to customers.

“The overwhelming majority of Oregonians don’t need the new law to ensure that most of their premium is spent on health care because Oregon has already taken the first steps to hold insurance companies accountable,” O’Brien writes in a blog on OSPIRG’s website.

Oregon’s robust health insurance rate view is one of the key reasons why, he says. It has been effective in pushing insurers to keep administrative and other nonmedical costs in check. This scrutiny has cut more than $155 million in waste and unjustified costs, O’Brien said. The Insurance Division recently cut proposed rate increases across the board for individual and most group plans.

States with similarly high levels of scrutiny for health insurance rates, including Washington, have similarly low volumes of rebates per capita. States with laxer regulations, such as California, Texas and Arizona, have two to three times the volume of rebates per capita as Oregon, O’Brien said.

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