Los Angeles, CA — The California Secretary of State cleared the ballot petition that requires health insurance companies to get approval for rate hikes, and creates fairer insurance rating factors, for the random sample count of signature verification yesterday. County registrars reported enough “raw count” signatures to move the petition to the next phase of the qualification process: verifying the validity of a 3% random sample of the nearly 800,000 signatures submitted.
The health insurance lobby has stopped the proposal in the legislature for a decade and now argues the ballot initiative is unnecessary because the legislature opposed the idea after weighing its merits. Consumer Watchdog Campaign today released the record of legislators who have taken votes for and against the rate regulation proposal in the legislature. The list can be viewed by clicking here.
“Health insurance companies argue they should not be as accountable for their rate hikes as auto and home insurance companies in California because the legislature failed to pass the proposal for a decade,” said Jamie Court, the initiative’s proponent and president of Consumer Watchdog. “The insurance industry’s lobbying and campaign influence is what has kept this proposal from becoming law and that’s why voters now deserve their own turn to demand greater oversight and accountability from insurance companies."
Health insurance regulation legislation was proposed in the California legislature every year since at least 2003, but faced so much insurance industry opposition that it did not receive a vote in a legislative committee until 2007. Since 2007, 53% of California legislators have voted for some form of health insurance rate regulation, 42% have voted against such regulation and 5% were absent or chose not to vote on the proposed legislation. None of the legislation to extend the type of rate regulation that exists for auto and home insurance to health insurance made it to a governor’s desk. The furthest such legislation proceeded was to pass the California Assembly but stall on the floor of the California Senate.
Health insurance companies gave $11.6 million in campaign cash to California politicians, including $7.4 million to candidates for the California legislature, between 2000 and 2010, according to an analysis released by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The top four health insurance industry contributors, Wellpoint, Kaiser, Blue Shield and Health Net, gave $5.5 million to candidates. These companies are also the four largest health insurers in California. The largest recipients of health insurer money were lawmakers that voted against or blocked reform. They include: Lou Correa ($119,967), Gloria Negrete-McLeod ($135,610), Ron Calderon ($65,700) and Juan Vargas ($42,122).
Health care also generated $35.7 million in lobbyist spending in 2011, more than any other industry in California, and California’s largest HMO Kaiser was the largest spender at $3.5 million, according to a California Healthline analysis of state records.
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