As it works to set a statewide target for the growth of annual per-person healthcare spending, the State of Oregon is first publishing data on the growth in expenditures. Personal spending on healthcare is approaching $8,000 per person annually in Oregon, an increase of 40 percent since 2013.
A new report by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) shows healthcare costs have increased dramatically in recent years, with Oregonians spending 22 percent of their household budgets on insurance premiums, prescription drugs and over-the-counter healthcare items in 2021.
OHA includes most of the state's healthcare programs, including public health and the Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program. It says this gives the state greater purchasing and market power to begin tackling issues with costs, quality, lack of preventive care and health care access.
Key findings from the OHA report include:
- High healthcare costs disproportionately impact communities of color. Data show 16 percent of American Indian or Alaska Native people and 18 percent of Latinx people in Oregon report using all of their savings on medical bills, compared to 9 percent of white people in the state. In 2021, Middle Eastern, North African, and Latino/a/x people reported the most difficulty paying medical bills."
- Commercial health insurance premiums rose significantly. Since 2019, premium costs for single plans have increased 12 percent and family plans 8 percent in Oregon. In 2021, the average annual health insurance premium for individuals in Oregon was $7,418; for a family it was $20,916. Additionally, the cost of deductibles for individual plans rose 84 percent between 2013 and 2021; for family plans it rose 34 percent.
- Oregonians in one income bracket fared worse than others. People in Oregon who earned an income of 138 percent (or less) of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) in 2021 had the most trouble paying medical bills over the previous 12 months, and they were more likely to use up their savings to pay medical bills or delay care altogether due to costs. Income at 138 percent FPL for an individual was $17,609 per year at the time of the survey; for a family of four it was $36,156.
OHA said the data clearly show that high healthcare costs lead directly to delayed care. Approximately one-third of Oregon adults surveyed said they skipped needed dental care, delayed going to a doctor or avoided care due to costs. One in four adults said they skipped doses of medicine or did not fill a prescription due to the expense.
The report is published by OHA’s Sustainable Health Care Cost Growth Target Program, which was established by the Legislature in 2019. The program monitors healthcare costs in the state and works with healthcare systems, healthcare plans, consumer advocates and others to try to ensure that growth is in-line with wages, inflation and other economic indicators. The program sets a statewide target for the growth of annual per-person healthcare spending—a goal determined in collaboration with representatives of the healthcare system, that accounts for the impact of COVID-19 and historically high inflation.
OHA will continue to monitor and publish reports on healthcare cost increases and factors driving these trends to bring transparency to conversations about reining in unsustainable spending.