Fate Of Health Insurance Regulation Measure Up In The Air

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There's still one potential November ballot measure pending – one that would subject health insurance rates to state regulation – and with only hours before the qualification deadline, its fate is up in the air.

Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog, a veteran of several high-profile ballot measure battles, and sponsored the initiative measure after the Legislature blocked a rate regulation bill that Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones had sought.

Consumer Watchdog submitted more than 800,000 signatures in May, and midnight Thursday is the deadline for counties to report whether validation sampling indicates that a full count would generate the 504,760 registered voter signatures needed to qualify. If it doesn't make it, the measure will proceed to a full signature validation count, but even if successful would not appear on the ballot until 2014.

To date, validation is running just under 70 percent and it would have to maintain that level, assuming all counties complete their processing, to make it to the ballot this year.

It all hinges on Los Angeles County, which has yet to submit any validation data. "It's going to be close," Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog's president, said Wednesday.

If the measure qualifies, it will spark a multi-million-dollar shootout pitting Court's organization and its allies, including labor unions, against the huge health care insurance industry, medical care providers and business groups.

Twelve measures have already qualified for the ballot, including two high-profile tax increase measures, but the Legislature may remove an $11 billion water bond it had placed before voters.

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