Before Californians have a chance to vote in November on a controversial ballot measure to regulate health insurance rate hikes they will be bombarded by advertising and media campaigns on both sides of the issue. Television and print blitzes are expected to begin at the end of June after the Secretary of State assigns numbers to propositions on the statewide ballot.
"The fight doesn't heat up till you get a ballot number, and that happens at the end of June," said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, which organized the campaign to put the initiative on the fall ballot.
"And that's when we expect to see the money start being spent," Balber said.
Opponent's coffers include a December donation of $12.5 million from Wellpoint, a health insurance company. Robin Swanson, spokesperson for Californians Against Higher Health Costs, which opposes the initiative, points out the proponents have money as well.
"I think in any discussion of money it's only fair to point out that [Consumer Watchdog] raised $2 million and spent $2 million already just to qualify this for the ballot," Swanson said.
Swanson and Balber agreed that a big advertising push to sway voters will be noticeable as soon as a ballot number is assigned by the state.
"Health insurance prices are still going through the roof, as far as we can see," Balber said. "So we have no doubt consumers will be lining up to vote for this."
"I think you're going to see our campaign reach out to voters across California this summer because this is a complex issue and it fundamentally alters health care reforms," Swanson said.
"The difference here is that health care policy is complex and the impacts of this initiative are far-reaching on how we implement health care reform in California," Swanson said. "The complexity of this is what makes it unique."