Santa Monica, CA – Patients facing skyrocketing health insurance premiums, including one who is now uninsured due to rising prices, joined consumer advocates today to launch an historic all-volunteer signature-gathering effort to qualify an initiative measure for California’s November ballot to regulate health insurance rates. Millions of registered voters will be receiving ballot petitions to sign in the mail and in their email, reminiscent of the volunteer mail effort that qualified insurance reform Prop 103 for the ballot in 1988. View the mailer and email at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyUi2yXYUto&feature=youtu.be. One page ballot petitions can be printed, signed, and returned at: http://www.JustifyRates.org.
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the first person to sign the ballot initiative petition, authored the email to registered voters and announced her support for the initiative this week.
Author of insurance reform initiative Proposition 103, which regulated auto and home insurance rates, Harvey Rosenfield, said: “Twenty-four years ago auto insurance companies were ripping off Californians with skyrocketing insurance premiums. I wrote Proposition 103 to make insurance companies get permission before raising their rates, and it has saved California drivers $62 billion since 1988. Now patients are facing the same greed from health insurance companies and need the same protections from outrageous rate hikes.”
Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog and proponent of the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act, said: "We know Californians are being ripped off when rates are rising five times faster than the rate of inflation. The public is demanding accountability from health insurance companies and transparency for the skyrocketing rates they charge. Our initiative will force health insurance companies to publicly justify rates, under penalty of perjury, before they take effect."
Consumer Watchdog Campaign unveiled the mailer and email that the all-volunteer campaign is using to reach more than two million registered California voters directly, rather than pay signature-gatherers to circulate petitions.
Senator Feinstein authored the email that was sent this week urging registered voters to download, print, sign and return the one-page petition at http://www.JustifyRates.org. The historic mail-in signature-gathering campaign mimics the successful mail-in effort that placed Proposition 103 on the ballot in 1988.
Two patients who have struggled with unaffordable health insurance premiums signed the initiative petition at the press conference. Susan Braig of Altadena is a cancer survivor, but is now uninsured after moving from a comprehensive policy to a catastrophic plan to no plan, because the premiums became too expensive for her budget.
“Seven years ago, at age 54, I was self-employed and of modest means, but completely debt-free. I had health insurance, but rarely made a claim. Today I am a 62-year old uninsured cancer survivor on the verge of bankruptcy from medical debt. That's why I'm signing this petition today to get health insurance prices under control,” said Braig.
Laurel Kaufer, a self-employed single mother with two sons from the San Fernando Valley, spoke about her efforts to maintain health insurance: “I have struggled for more than a decade to balance the cost of health care and health insurance with the need to seek medical help. My premiums continue to rise: from $445 a month in August 2010 to $626 in July 2011, a 41% increase in a year. At this rate, my individual policy will soon cost more than our family policy did in 2009.”
The Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act will reform an unaccountable insurance industry by requiring health insurance companies to open their books, publicly justify rate hikes, and get approval before an increase can take effect. 35 states have the power to reject unjustified health insurance rate increases but California does not.
Health insurance premiums in California have gone up 153% in the last decade, while inflation rose just 29%, according to the California HealthCare Foundation.
Read the initiative and download petitions at: http://www.JustifyRates.org.
The Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act:
· Requires health insurance companies to publicly disclose and justify, under penalty of perjury, proposed rate changes before they take effect.
· Makes every document filed by an insurance company to justify a rate increase a public record.
· Requires public hearings on proposed rate increases.
· Gives Californians the right to challenge excessive and unfair premium rate increases.
· Prohibits health, auto and home insurers from considering Californians’ credit history or prior insurance coverage when setting premiums or deciding whether to offer coverage.
· Gives the insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified health insurance rate increases.
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Consumer Watchdog Campaign is chaired by insurance reform Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield. In 1988, Rosenfield authored the landmark reform of auto and home insurance that has saved California drivers $62 billion on their auto insurance, according to a 2008 report by the Consumer Federation of America. Consumer Watchdog Campaign is the campaign affiliate of Consumer Watchdog, which was founded by Rosenfield and whose president, Jamie Court, an award-winning consumer advocate and author, is the proponent of the proposed ballot.