Feinstein, Jones Boost Health Insurance Initiative at Dem Convention

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Two heavyweights – Senator Dianne Feinstein and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones – went to bat for health reform at the Democratic Convention in San Diego this weekend, and activists' embrace of their call to action was loud and immediate.

In a luncheon speech on Saturday, Senator Feinstein went after health insurance companies for excessive increases in consumers' premiums, often more than once a year, even as insurers continue raking in huge profits. It's time to take this issue directly to the voters, said Feinstein, after the legislature has failed for the last five years to pass a bill requiring health insurers to publicly justify and get their rates approved. Senator Feinstein's call for Democratic activists to join her in the fight against out-of-control health insurance premiums garnered her loudest and most sustained applause of the speech. The crowd knew she has made this California initiative battle a top priority — she went so far as to elevate it to the level of her signature issue in Congress, repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones picked up the baton and drummed the message home in a speech on the convention floor an hour later, when he reminded the crowd that he has been able to save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars because he has the power to reject excessive auto and home insurance rates, but his hands are tied on health insurance prices. Best line of the speech: "My only authority for health insurance is, get this, to sentence the health insurer to my website if I think their rate is unreasonable. [pause] They're laughing too." The Insurance Commissioner had volunteers covering the convention hall, gathering signatures and placing petitions in the hands of every delegate.

Both Feinstein and Jones made a clarion call to activists in attendance to not just sign the petitions, but to take the petitions home to multiply. People left the meeting Sunday with packets in hand ready to join the all-volunteer signature-gathering effort. If you don't frequent political conventions but want your own petitions, go to www.JustifyRates.org to download, print and sign the petition, or order petition packs in the mail.

Carmen Balber
Carmen Balber
Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber has been with the organization for nearly two decades. She spent four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office where she advocated for key health insurance market reforms that were ultimately enacted into law as part of the Affordable Care Act.

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