Health Insurance Rate Watch Project

OSPIRG’s Health Insurance Rate Watch Project pushes health insurers to do more to cut waste and focus on prevention before they raise premiums. 

Cutting waste from insurance premiums

Health care still costs more than it should. One study estimates that in 2009, $765 billion, or one-third of all health care spending, was wasted on things that did not make us healthier. [1]  Some of that estimated waste included:

  • Overinflated medical prices: $105 billion in waste. Recently, hospitals have been caught charging outrageous prices, such as $1000 for one toothbrush and $140 for a single Tylenol. [2]
  • Duplicative treatments: $8 billion in waste. This includes the extra costs of having to get the same x-ray or MRI twice because health care is poorly coordinated.
  • Excessive administrative costs and paperwork: $190 billion in waste. 

Far too often, insurers simply pass those costs along to us in the form of higher premiums. 

So OSPIRG pushes back to make sure health insurance companies do more to cut waste before they raise premiums. By carefully scrutinizing rate hike proposals for things like administrative bloat, we’ve already helped cut over 150 million dollars from proposed rate increases in Oregon. [3] Now we want to make sure that insurers do even more to bring down costs: by focusing on keeping patients healthy instead of only paying for treatments once they get sick; actively negotiating for better deals from hospitals; and doing more to cut waste. [4] 

Unfortunately, some health insurance companies are spending millions to maintain their influence in Salem. But when we’ve brought public pressure to bear on unjustified rate increases, we’ve seen results, so join us!

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[1] Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Feb. 2011, The Healthcare Imperative: Lowering Costs and Improving Outcomes: infographic and report

[2] CNN, March 2010, Prescription for waste: $1000 toothbrush. See also New York Times, Dec. 2013, As Hospital Prices Soar, a Stitch Tops $500.

[3] OSPIRG Foundation, July 2013, Accountability in Action.

[4] See here for an example of a clinic in Oregon that is doing this the right way.

Learn more about Oregon's health insurance 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

Issue updates

News Release | OSPIRG | Health Care

Twenty Top Generic Drugs Delayed By Industry Payoffs

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Top 20 Pay-For-Delay Drugs

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Result | Health Care

Governor Kitzhaber To Pursue Strengthened Scrutiny for Health Insurance Rates

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Media Hit | Health Care

Oregon slashes 2014 health insurance premium 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

Regence rate hike scaled back

State officials have decided to trim Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon’s proposal to raise rates for more than 52,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans. Instead of the 9.6% rate hike proposed, the Oregon Insurance Division approved an 8.9% average increase, with some consumers seeing increases as high as 15.6%. Regence does not appear to have resolved many of the problems identified in OSPIRG Foundation's analysis of their proposal. In addition, elements of the decision were based on information that was not made available to the public.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Regence Rate Hike Not Justified

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon’s proposal to raise rates for Oregonians with individual health insurance plans does not measure up, according to a new OSPIRG Foundation analysis.

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Media Hit | Health Care

Regence BlueCross BlueShield defends proposed rate hike at Salem hearing

Escalating medical and prescription drug costs have given Regence BlueCross BlueShield executives little choice but to raise rates an average 9.6 percent for people who buy their own insurance, an executive told Oregon insurance regulators Monday.

Jesse Ellis O'Brien of the OSPIRG Foundation said Oregonians will face less choice and more costs as a result of the proposal.

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Media Hit | Health Care

Regence Reduces Payments to Healthcare Professionals

July 26, 2012 -- Physicians and other healthcare professionals are being hit with a rate reduction from Regence BlueCross BlueShield on October 1, while the insurer is asking the Insurance Division to approve a 9.6 percent increase for roughly 53,000 people who buy their own coverage. A public hearing on that rate request will be held next Monday at 3 p.m. in Salem.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Providence Customers May See Rates Rise As Much As 18.6%

 

More than 12,000 Oregonians with individual health insurance plans will see rate hikes of 15.7% on average, and as high as 18.6%, if the premium rate hike posted today by Providence Health Plans goes forward. Many customers will also see increased out-of-pocket costs.

 

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on PacificSource's Small Business Rate Hike Proposal

PacificSource is proposing to increase rates 5.56% on average, affecting 35,224 Oregonians enrolled in small business plans. If approved, this rate increase will have wide ranging impacts. Most enrollees will see increases of between 6% and 10%. Some will see increases of up to 11.2%. Over 27% will see increases of between 8% and 14%.

 

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on Regence Small Business Rate Hike Proposal

We are concerned that Regence BlueCross BlueShield (Regence) has not adequately justified its proposal for a rate increase impacting 47,806 Oregonians with coverage through a small business employer.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Making the Grade

By providing better options and better information, and negotiating on behalf of its enrollees, the exchange can level the playing field for consumers.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on ODS Health Plan's Proposal to Increase Rates 9.94%

ODS Health Plan (ODS) is proposing to raise rates an average of 9.94%, impacting 26,333 Oregon consumers and families with individual plans, effective November 1, 2011. The nearly 10% rate increase comes after two back-to-back years of increases exceeding 17%. If approved, the average rate will have increased 52% for individual policyholders over the last three years.

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Blog Post | Health Care

Regence Rate Increase Hearing | Matt Orchant

Health insurance premiums are going up again. The latest request for a rate hike came from Regence for their small group plans. The average increase requested over the next year will be 8%, but some businesses will see increases in excess of 15%. At OSPIRG, we’re concerned that Regence has not adequately justified this increase request.

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Latest Regence Health Insurance Rate Hike | Laura Etherton

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon is proposing to raise rates an average of 22% on 60,000 Oregonians. This is the fifth straight year of double-digit rate hikes. But this year, something interesting is happening.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection, Health Care

The Oregonian and health care costs | David Rosenfeld

If you haven't seen the Oregonian's editorial on the Senate's health insurance exchange bill, it's worth a read. Unfortunately, the Oregon Senate decided to prohibit the exchange from negotiating with insurance companies to get consumers a better deal (which I'm sure insurers are happy about.)

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Holding health insurers accountable for costs | David Rosenfeld

What if health insurance companies had to stand before the public and clearly justify their rate hikes?

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For Health Net Customers | David Rosenfeld

If you are a Health Net customer, you may have received a notice in the mail this week. If you did, we urge you to open it.

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PRIORITY ACTION

Tell the Governor: Hold insurers accountable for cutting waste and prioritizing prevention. 

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