A consumer group started an effort this week to get an initiative on the ballot that would give the state insurance commissioner the power to accept or reject excessive health insurance rates.
By early January, Consumer Watchdog expects to be able to start collecting the more than 500,000 signatures it needs to get the proposed measure on the November 2012 ballot.
"Basically it makes insurance companies ask permission to raise rates or change policies rather than ask for forgiveness when they get it wrong," said Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica consumer group, which announced its intention to go to the voters after rate-regulation legislation stalled in the Legislature.
Health insurers and other opponents wasted no time in criticizing the proposed measure, calling it "deeply flawed" and a "gimmick."
"Broad-based opposition by employers, doctors, hospitals and medical groups to similar legislation demonstrates that giving a politician the power to set prices does not address the real reason health care costs are increasing and could threaten patients' access to medical care," said Charles Bacchi, executive vice president of the California Association of Health Plans.
E-mail Victoria Collier at [email protected].