Some decent news for health insurance consumers today. The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) issued their much-awaited decision on Regence BlueCross BlueShield's proposal to raise rates 22% on 60,000 customers. 

The bottom line? DCBS cut the rate down to 12.8%. That's a difference of $12.5 million for consumers. 

We are glad to report that DCBS agreed with the OSPIRG Foundation Rate Watch analysis that the proposed increase was not fully justified, would likely worsen the problem of Regence’s shrinking enrollment numbers, and have negative impacts on enrollees.

It was also great to see that in its decision, DCBS officials made special note of the importance of the hundreds of public comments they received as part of the June 2nd public hearing and the written public comment period.

Now, to be clear:  The approved 12.8% rate increase will still be tremendously difficult for Oregonians to afford, especially in this economy. More must be done – by insurers and all the players in the health industry – to lower costs by cutting waste and improving Oregonians’ health.

Oregon’s rate review program is a critical part of a comprehensive approach to reining in runaway health care costs. We encourage DCBS to continue going through rate increases with a fine tooth comb to eliminate excessive costs for consumers.

And, following on the success of the first public hearing in 20 years on this rate increase, we hope we'll see even further improvements to the transparency of the rate review process, and more opportunities for meaningful public involvement.