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

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Oregon slashes 2014 health insurance premium requests by as much as 35 percent

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OSPIRG: 16 Health Insurance Companies Need To Justify Rates

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Proposed 2014 health insurance rates lack adequate justification

Sixteen Oregon health insurance companies have proposed their premium rates for next year, and according to new OSPIRG Foundation analysis released today, many have failed to adequately justify their prices.“With some insurers proposing rates twice as high as others for identical coverage, it is more critical than ever to scrutinize the basis for these rates,” said Jesse O’Brien, OSPIRG Foundation Health Care Advocate.

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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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Report | OSPIRG Foundation | Health Care

Comment on Providence Health Plan's Proposed Individual Health Insurance Rates

Providence Health Plan has proposed premium rates for its individual and family plans for 2014. The insurer initially filed for significantly higher rates than Oregon’s other top insurance companies,   but then proposed lowering the rates. Doing so would bring the rates in line with those of competing insurers. OSPIRG Foundation's analysis of Providence's initial filing and the supplemental information provided raises some concerns about the insurer's proposal and its justification.

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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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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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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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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

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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