A Blue Shield customer from San Diego emailed Consumer Watchdog recently to complain about a 59 percent rate hike. his comment, according to Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court:
There is no market for health insurance. You have two choices: 1. Pay whatever they say. 2. Die.
That's about it, right there.
You know why nobody in Sacramento can do anything about health insurance rates ? It's because by law our state Insurance Commissioner is really just a car-insurance and home-insurance commissioner with little authority over health insurers. That goes back to Prop. 103, the landmark ballot measure that created an elected insurance commissioner and dramatically restricted unfair practices by liability insurers. But Prop. 103 (thanks to the one-subject rules for initiatives) couldn't take on health insurance.
Now there's a bill in Sacramento, AB 52, that would give the insurance commissioner the ability to regulate health insurance rates — and the lobbyists are going nuts. But as Court says, Blue Shield made a big mistake — not only by radically raising rates but by refusing a request by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones for a 60-day delay. "They have become the poster child for rate regulation," Court told me. And if the Legislature doesn't pass the bill (a similar effort failed last year) Court and Consumer Watchdog are looking at a major mesure for the 2012 ballot that would be the health-insurance equivalent of Prop. 103, a measure to control rates — and mandate a public option for Californians.
"We will have the same conditions in 2014 that we had with car insurance in 1984," he said. "The government says you have to buy it, but there's no regulations on cost."