This article has been updated to incorporate additional reporting.
The more than 160,000 Oregonians who buy their own health insurance and who are not on Medicare could see their premiums go up an average of 6.2% next year.
That’s the upshot of insurers’ proposed rate increases for the individual market, which were recently submitted to the state for approval.
For the small group policies sold to smaller businesses, meanwhile, insurers are requesting an average 8.1% increase.
Insurers’ rate proposals will now undergo review by the public and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, a process that includes public hearings scheduled for July 17-18.
Members of the public don’t have to wait before commenting. They can comment online through June 30 at oregonhealthrates.org.
At the end of the process, the state will issue approved rates that could either be lower or higher than insurers’ requests. Last year, most were approved as submitted.
For 2024, Providence Health is proposing the biggest hike in the individual market, an average 8.5%, while the smallest is Moda Health Plan, at 3.9%. The average of the proposed increases is slightly lower than the proposed increases last year. They’re also lower than the average private-sector wage increase in Oregon this year. According to Oregon Employment Department data, as of February those wages increased 9.1% over the last year.
Other relatively good news? There are at least four insurers offering plans in each Oregon county. Before the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2014, Oregon had one of the country’s most competitive health insurance markets. But in 2016, some insurers threatened to pull out of much of the state and leave some counties without competition — until Oregon regulators offered what amounted to a bailout.
“We continue to have a strong and competitive insurance marketplace with at least four carriers offering plans in every Oregon county,” said Insurance Commissioner and DCBS Director Andrew Stolfi in a statement issued by the state.
Maribeth Guarino, an advocate for the Oregon State Public Interest Group, said the group hasn't completed its full review, but she sees cause for concern. “The lower overall increases compared to last year is a good thing, but some individual companies still have relatively high rate increases, and not necessarily the same companies that had high proposed rates last year,” she said. “And though the individual market is important, I think even more important this year is the decrease of carriers offering small group coverage and the higher proposed rate increases in the small group market. Small businesses are a huge part of Oregon's economy. Small business owners need to be able to offer that benefit to their employees and their employees need to be able to pay their premiums.”
Guarino added that the state “should take a close look at these proposed rates to ensure premiums aren't rising needlessly, and that close analysis should be evident during the public hearing and approval process for these rates.”
The rate increases are significant because they come on top of years of rate increases and escalating health care costs for Oregonian households.
Those who get coverage through their job may not feel the full effects of the increases. Some employers may be reluctant to pass on the total cost increases, according to an article late last year in the New York Times.
While consumers who buy their own plans can do so directly from insurers, they also can do so through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, which offers sliding-scale subsidies based on income. Open enrollment begins in November.