On Wednesday, Covered California officials released a report raising questions about a ballot initiative that would give the state government regulatory authority over health insurance premium rates, KQED's "State of Health" reports (Aliferis, "State of Health," KQED, 6/19).
The initiative — which is being promoted by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) and Consumer Watchdog — would give the state regulatory authority to monitor and control health care premium rates, similar to how it controls automobile and property rates (California Healthline, 5/9).
Details of Report
The Covered California report outlines questions about the ballot initiative related to:
- The timeline for rate reviews;
- Implications for the 2015 plan year;
- Marketing and outreach;
- Rate changes that are not approved by the beginning of open enrollment;
- Subsidies for premiums; and
- Standard benefit designs (Covered California report, 6/18).
The report notes, "Under the current timelines, there is very little flexibility in the event there are major delays" resulting from the initiative's proposed rate regulation process.
The exchange board will have a public hearing on the ballot initiative during its meeting Thursday.
Betsy Imholz, with San Francisco-based Consumers Union, said that the group supports state regulation of insurance rates but that the exchange's "questions are fair." She said, "This is a unique situation we have here, and those questions have to be considered" ("State of Health," KQED, 6/19).
Micah Weinberg, a senior policy adviser for the Bay Area Council and member of the Covered California SHOP Advisory Group, said, "The bureaucratic conflicts and delays caused by this measure will undermine, if not destroy, Covered California's successful approach to providing affordable, high quality health care coverage options" (Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs release, 6/18).
However, supporters of the ballot initiative say concerns about state regulation of health insurance rates are overstated.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said that "other states have health insurance exchanges and other states have health insurance rate regulations," adding, "[T]here shouldn’t be any concerns about timing" ("State of Health," KQED, 6/19).