Insurance companies roll back rates

The health insurance industry had a big wake up call this week in Oregon. Companies are starting to scramble to roll back proposed rate increases once consumers got a chance to comparison shop on the state’s health insurance exchange (Cover Oregon).

The background

Uninsured Oregonians will be required to buy health insurance in 2014. Low- and moderate-income families will get a tax break to pay for the coverage. Rates are expected to rise because people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied insurance and because the insurance will have to have a minimum benefit package.

Providence Health Plans announced that they wanted to raise rates by as much as 53%, and then blame it on the Affordable Care Act.

This week those rates were made public on the Cover Oregon website, and now consumers can start to comparison shop in advance of the October 1 launch of enrollment.

But now that there is an opportunity for apples to apples comparison, Providence is now saying that it made an “incorrect projection” and wants to reduce the request for an increase.

What is SEIU doing to continue the fight?

The rate increases are under review by the state Insurance Division. We are lobbying like crazy on House Bill 2118 and Senate Bill 413 to toughen up the rate review process and to push Cover Oregon to require insurance companies to help improve the quality of health care. The proposed rate increases are still pretty outrageous. The standards for the policies are not as tough as they should be. The rate review process needs more teeth.

The purchasing power of Oregonians who buy insurance through the exchange should be used to force health care providers and insurance companies to deliver quality care at an affordable price.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act is going to be a big struggle. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars and consumer dollars are at stake. So is the health of our families. Our union has done a lot to lead on this fight, and now we have had some success on this latest skirmish.

House Bill 2118 awaits action in House committee. Speaker Tina Kotek is leading efforts on this bill to strengthen standards for insurers and protects consumers from sub-standard policies. Senate Bill 413 strengthens the rate review process. A very weak version passed the Senate and the House is working to improve the bill.

For those who want to take action, please call Senate President Peter Courtney 503-986-1600 and Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum 503-986-1700 to urge them to pass HB 2118 protect consumers from price gouging on the exchange. These bills should be back in the Senate for consideration before the end of May.

The News Coverage

The Oregonian: Two Oregon insurers rethink 2014 premiums as state posts first-ever rate comparison


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