EDITORIAL: ‘Yes’ Vote On Prop. 45 Will Rein In Health Premiums

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Powerful forces are opposed to Proposition 45, which would give California's publicly elected insurance commissioner the power to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes.

These forces — you know them as Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Kaiser, Health Net and United Healthcare — don't want voters to approve Prop. 45 on the Nov. 4 ballot because it would force them to justify premium increases and bring transparency to the process.

From the start of 2014 through Sept. 30, opponents of Prop. 45 spent $25 million, according to the California secretary of state website. This figure indicates how desperate they are to shoot down the proposal. What's more, as of Sept. 30, opponents had $11.5 million in their kitty to air more of the deceptive ads filling the airwaves of late. Published reports predict they will spend $50 million by election day.

Why do these insurance giants fear Prop. 45? The fact is, California is among a handful of states not making health care insurers justify their rates. The way things work in the Golden State, the insurance commissioner reviews rates and can comment on them, but lacks the power to lower premium increases.

Thus, as state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones explained in a meeting with the Editorial Board last year, the big insurance companies are able to get away with higher markups on California policies.

It's important to note that the health care lobby killed, in the state Senate, three previous attempts to give the insurance commissioner the ability to reject rate increases.

Some Prop. 45 opponents contend that competition and less government regulation are the best means to keep health care premiums in check.

While that sounds good in theory, the reality, according to Prop. 45 supporters, is that five health insurers control 88% of the market in California. So much for competition.

Another argument against Prop. 45 is that it concentrates too much power in the hands of a single person. However, voters entrusted the insurance commissioner to reject auto insurance rate increases by passing Proposition 103 in 1987 and that decision put the brakes on runaway premiums.

Don't believe the nonsense from the health insurers, specifically that line in the television commercial about the "new independent commission." There is no such thing.

Proposition 45 is worthy of a "yes" vote.

But if you want to put more of your hard-earned dollars into the pockets of insurance company CEOs, by all means vote "no." They might be having trouble making the mortgage on their second yacht — or third vacation home.

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