Health Insurance Rate Regulation Proposal Gets 800,000 Signatures

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Supporters of a proposal to give state regulators power to reject health insurance rate increases say they are submitting 800,000 voter signatures to election officials in hopes of qualifying for the November ballot.

"We will give California voters the chance to decide their own fate in November and stop out of control health insurance premiums," Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, whose group is sponsoring the initiative, wrote in an email to supporters today.

Under the proposed initiative, changes to heath insurance policy rates would need approval from the state insurance commissioner. Voters approved a similar process for auto insurers, also backed by Consumer Watchdog, in 1988.

Consumer Watchdog launched the initiative qualification campaign after heath insurance rate regulation legislation stalled in the state Legislature last year. The measure also targets provisions of a rate-related initiative sponsored by auto insurance agents.

Supporters say the measure will protect consumers from excessive rate hikes. A coalition formed to oppose the measure, which includes the California Medical Association and the California Hospital Association, blasted the move as bad for patients.

"This measure will create another duplicative and expensive bureaucracy when we can least afford it, ultimately paid for with higher health insurance premiums." California Chamber of Commerce President Allan Zaremberg said in a statement released by the opposition campaign.

Supporters are holding a press conference in Los Angeles this morning to begin submitting petitions to election officials there. They need roughly 504,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot. All measures headed for the November ballot must be certified by June 28.

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