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

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.

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Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield (Regence) is proposing a rate increase on small business plans, with an average increase of 10.8%, impacting 54,299 Oregonians, effective July 1, 2011.

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