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. Close scrutiny of rate hike proposals already helped cut over 179 million dollars from health insurance premiums 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.

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, September 2014, Accountability in Action.

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 Foundation | Health Care

Over $69 Million in Waste Cut from 2014 Health Insurance Premiums

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, according to a new OSPIRG Foundation report released today. The new cuts come after OSPIRG Foundation’s analysis questioned the justifications of five major rate proposals. Taken together with cuts made since new standards were implemented, state officials have required insurers to cut $155 million in waste since 2010.

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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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Media Hit | Health Care

Hooray! Few Oregonians receive health insurance rebates

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).

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Blog Post | Health Care

Few Oregonians will receive health insurance rebate checks this year—Here’s why that’s a good thing | Jesse Ellis O'Brien

This summer, consumers and businesses nationwide will receive $500 million in rebates from health insurance companies. Only 1 in every 200 Oregonians will see a dime as a result of this program, and that’s great news for our state. Here’s why.

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Report | OSPIRG | Democracy, Health Care

2013 Legislative Vote Chart

Want to know how your Oregon state legislators voted on key bills related to democracy, health care and government transparency during the 2013 legislative session? Download OSPIRG's vote chart.

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News Release | OSPIRG | Health Care

Oregon's Health Exchange Law Gets a B-

Oregon’s health insurance exchange has opportunities to do more to help consumers and small businesses hit with high health care costs, according to a new study.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

ODS Rate Hike Nudged Down to 8.94%

Officials at the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) announced approval of an of an 8.94% rate increase on ODS individual policies, down one percentage point from the proposed 9.94% average rate hike.

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Media Hit | Health Care

Oregon Eyes Insurance Rate Increase

SALEM, Ore. - Customers of one of Oregon's largest health insurance companies may see a large rate increase soon. State insurance regulators held a rare public hearing Wednesday on the request by ODS Health Plan to hike its rates an average of 10 percent.

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News Release | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Analysis of Proposed 9.94% ODS Health Plan Rate Hike

ODS Health Plan will defend its proposal to raise rates nearly 10% on over 26,000 Oregonians at a public hearing today in Salem. The increase comes after two back-to-back years of increases exceeding 17%. If approved, the average rate will have soared 52% for individual policyholders over the last three years.

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Media Hit | Health Care

Testing a new reflex on health care

Earlier this year, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon found itself under a powerful spotlight. At a public hearing -- the first such hearing in more than two decades -- Regence had to justify its 22.1 percent rate increase request to state regulators, as well as to the more than 150 Oregonians in attendance.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on Health Net's Rate Increase Proposal

Health Net Health Plan of Oregon is proposing an average 8.27% rate increase on small business plans impacting 37,872 Oregonians, effective April 1, 2011.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comments on United HealthCare's Proposed Rate Hike

In this rate filing, United HealthCare does not appear to justify the proposed 16.8% increase.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Delivering on the Promise

The recently passed federal health care reform law will make significant changes in how health insurance and health care work for consumers, businesses, and local and state governments, as well as how insurers and providers operate.  But whether Americans experience improved care, lower costs and greater access depends largely on what happens next.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Premiums on the Rise

In 2008, over 400,000 Oregonians received an average rate increase over 4 times the rate of inflation, with 133,000 Oregonians hit with premium increases over 21%.

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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

More For Your Money

The Oregon Health Fund Board's draft plan's consumer-friendly cost containment provisions have the potential to cut health care costs an estimated $5.4 billion over ten years.

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