Salem Hospital (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

After years of double-digit hikes in health insurance premiums, Oregonians will likely see an average increase of about 3 percent for individual plans for 2020, a sign state officials said shows the insurance market is stabilizing.

Small group plans, which cover about 17,000 employees of small businesses in Marion and Polk county, would rise an average of 9 percent next year under proposed rates submitted this week to Oregon regulators.

Some of the nearly 14,000 Marion and Polk county residents insured through individual plans may in fact see their costs drop. Moda, one of the four insurers covering Salem residents, has proposed to cut its rates by 3 percent.

If the rates are approved, a 40-year-old Portland resident would pay between $430 and $465 a month for insurance on a typical “silver” plan with most insurers. Those plans cover about 70% of health expenses.

HealthNet, which sells individual coverage outside the federal marketplace, is an outlier. The company requested an increase of 13.5 percent, bringing its monthly silver plan cost to $552.

Proposed increases for small group coverage would bring the average silver plan cost to about $330 to $380 per month in Portland.

Marion and Polk county residents typically pay between $10 more or $10 less than Portland residents for the same plan, state data shows.

About 17,000 Marion and Polk county residents have small group coverage.

About half of people who buy individual coverage qualify for federal subsidies to cover a portion of the cost.

State Insurance Commissioner Andrew Stolfi said the requests were welcome news after average price hikes of more than 20 percent in 2016 and 2017.

This year, every insurance company is keeping coverage for the same counties, and several companies have expanded into new areas.

“We haven’t lost companies. We’re seeing moderate rate increases,” he said.

Salem residents will still have four insurers to choose from: Moda, HealthNet, Kaiser, which requested a rate increase of about 11 percent, and Providence, which requested a 2 percent increase.

Stolfi said Oregon’s reinsurance program, which reimburses insurance companies for half the cost of very expensive claims, has helped lower rates. Those payments began in 2018, he said.

The rates must be approved by state regulators at the Division of Financial Regulation and will be finalized in mid-July. Over the past several years, the division has typically approved slightly lower rate increases than those sought by insurers.

“Our main role is to make sure that the rates charged to consumers adequately cover healthcare costs without being too high or too low,” Stolfi said.

As part of that process, Stolfi said his staff would publish data allowing consumers to compare plans and review prescription drug prices.

That will include a table showing changes being proposed to existing plans and out-of-pocket costs, including deductibles and co-pays.

Consumers can also review the cost of the most commonly prescribed drugs, most expensive drugs and drugs driving increases in health plan spending for each insurer.

Reporter Rachel Alexander: rachel@salemreporter.com or 503-575-1241.

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