What are the lobbyists for the California health insurance industry smoking? At a legislative hearing today on allowing the state insurance commissioner to review and approve or modify health premium increases, the California Health Insurance Plans lobbyist said patients in California don't need that, because "California is a success story" in providing affordable health insurance. LOL! Was he talking about the increase in uninsured Californians, from 6 million to 8 million over the last few years? Or the attempt by Blue Shield to raise rates by up to 87% in less than 12 months?
Or maybe the lobbyist was talking about how the new insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, in just his first 100 days, found more than one insurance company had overstated its projected medical costs.
California is a success, all right, for the record-smashing billions of dollars profits that insurance companies are reporting. Wellpoint, the parent of Blue Cross, saw profits up 51% in the first quarter of 2010, even though it dropped nearly 1 million policyholders. Making more money from caring for fewer people–that's success, all right.
The California bill that would allow state regulators to actually regulate health insurance (AB52, Feuer) looks like it will pass in the Assembly Health Committee, but not before a lot of other ridiculous claims by opponents–California has cheap health insurance, regulation will cause people to lose insurance (they never could explain that one), insurance companies will be terribly burdened by having to defend their premium increases, and insurance companies are only trying to protect their patients and customers from the evil hand of government.
Of course, we know how protective insurance companies are of policyholders, especially with those multiple yearly premium increases.
What the arguments today show is how hard it is to get California up to where 37 other states are, with regulators who are allowed to do their job. The financial power and influence of the insurance lobby in the state Legislature is immense. Californians can help legislators remember why they need to answer to consumers, not the insurance lobby, and regulators need power to get premiums under control. Just click here to send a short message of support for health premium regulation to your legislators.