Field Poll: Strong Support for California Health Insurance Rate-Regulation Measure

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A California initiative on the fall ballot requiring that health insurance rate changes be approved by the elected insurance commissioner is receiving strong support from voters statewide, according to the latest Field Poll.

Nearly 70 percent of registered voters back Proposition 45, while 16 percent say they would oppose it and 15 percent remain undecided ahead of the Nov. 4 election. Support came from 75 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of independents and 58 percent of Republicans.

Meanwhile, a separate initiative mandating random drug testing of doctors and quadrupling the state’s $250,000 limit on medical malpractice awards was out ahead by a smaller majority. Proposition 46, which also would compel doctors to consult a state drug history database before issuing certain prescriptions, is supported by 58 percent, opposed by 30 percent and has 12 percent undecided.

The survey comes ahead of what are expected to be two of the most expensive and hard-fought statewide campaigns of the election cycle. Proponents of the measures include the politically influential trial attorneys and consumer groups who argue more must be done to prevent steep health insurance rate increases and to deter negligence by making doctors accountable for their medical errors.

Opponents from the powerful medical and insurance industries argue the measures concentrate too much power under one politician and stand to financially benefit supporters at great expense to taxpayers.

Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll, cautioned not to read too much into the early results because the campaigns have yet to shift into high gear.

“The initial measure is devoid of any campaign arguments,” DiCamillo said. “My interpretation is here’s how they are answering: ‘Sounds like a good idea.’ ”

Edward Heissel, a retired police detective who lives in the mountains of Tehachapi, said he was initially inclined to support both of the ballot measures. But after hearing a brief summary he said he isn’t so sure anymore – and is leaning toward opposing the pair.

Proposition 45, though well intended to ensure insurers can justify their proposed rate increases, may go too far, the 69-year-old said.

“That sounds like too much power for one person,” he said. “I would rather have a number of people decide on it. As we know, everyone has an agenda.”

Proposition 46’s provisions to increase the cap to about $1.1 million and require random drug and alcohol testing of doctors also sounded attractive, he said.

“With the cost of living and inflation going up, I have no problems raising the cap,” he said. “And certainly I would want to know that my doctor is clean.”

But he expressed reservations about the prescription drug history database

“We have too much big government already,” Heissel said.

Call Christopher Cadelago, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5538. Follow him on Twitter @ccadelago

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