Santa Monica, CA — The California Department of Insurance announced today it has reduced medical malpractice insurance rates for 20,000 doctors insured by The Doctors Company by $21 million using the state’s prior approval rate regulation authority. The Department of Insurance has ordered the top six medical malpractice insurance companies in California to lower their rates by a combined $44 million since March.
California law prohibits insurance companies from charging unfair or excessive malpractice insurance premiums to doctors, but does not regulate health insurance premiums paid by patients. A ballot initiative proposed for November in California would apply the regulations that require most insurance companies in the state to publicly justify and get approval for their rate increases to health insurance policies sold to nearly 5.5 million Californians.
The state’s five largest health insurance companies — Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser, Blue Shield, Health Net and Aetna — are funding attacks on the proposed ballot initiative and have enlisted the California Medical Association to be the public face of their opposition campaign.
“This initiative will make health insurance companies follow rules that most other insurers in California already follow, and publicly justify and prove the need for rate increases before they take effect. Patients deserve the same protection against unfair rates that doctors, drivers and homeowners already enjoy,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “It is shocking for the California Medical Association to side with the insurance industry against patients and oppose a measure that will make health insurance prices fairer when the same law has saved doctors $44 million in the last four months alone."
The ballot initiative, sponsored by Consumer Watchdog Campaign, is awaiting verification of the 800,000 signatures submitted by patients and consumer advocates last month to qualify the insurance rate reform measure for the November ballot.
California insurance reform law Proposition 103 gave the state insurance commissioner authority to modify or deny medical malpractice and other property-casualty insurance rates that are unfair or excessive. The law encourages public participation by allowing members of the public to challenge excessive rates, and funding that participation.
The Doctors Company, California's largest medical malpractice insurance company, will reduce premiums for California doctors by an average 10%. Consumer Watchdog challenged the company's proposed rate as excessive, arguing that the company’s huge profits and unsupported projections of expected claims indicated a larger decrease was necessary than that proposed by the insurer.
Consumer Watchdog has brought other challenges to unfair and excessive insurance rates that have resulted in $2.2 billion in savings for auto, homeowners, earthquake and medical malpractice insurance policyholders since 2002. Click here to see the savings chart.
The ballot initiative, 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, and requires public hearings on some 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.
For more information about the ballot initiative visit http://www.JustifyRates.org.
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Consumer Watchdog Campaign is chaired by insurance reform Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield. 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 initiative.