February 18th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP

Rep. Chip Shields Takes Aim at Insurance Division


Karen Kirsch isn't the only Oregonian pissed off by the way the state Insurance Division approves rate increases for individual health-care policies. Turns out she has at least one sympathetic ear in the Legislature.

As we reported this week, Kirsch is challenging the Insurance Division's decision last July to let BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon raise its annual rates on about 88,000 individual customers by 25.9 percent.

Now state Rep. Chip Shields (D-North/Northeast Portland) is taking up the cause for Kirsch, a retired psychoanalyst from Northwest Portland. Shields plans to introduce a bill in the coming weeks that would tighten procedures and encourage more public input in the Insurance Division's rate-approval process.

Shields is following the Kirsch case closely. He says it reflects widespread frustration with the Insurance Division's efforts to protect consumers from getting gouged by insurance companies.

"Most individuals and small business owners have felt for a long time they were getting screwed in the arbitrary nature of the rate review process," Shields says. "It's clear to me there are a lot of warts, and we have a lot of work to do to even the scales."

Shields says specifics of the proposed bill are still being ironed out. He's working on the bill with the liberal public-advocacy group OSPIRG, and that group also is tracking Kirsch's case.

"This is just an example of the outrageous rate increases that consumers are facing," says Laura Etherton, an OSPIRG advocate.

The Insurance Division, meanwhile, has its own proposals (PDF) for improving its rate-approval process.
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