Insurance Commissioner: State In Position For Its Own Health Care Overhaul

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California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said he's optimistic the U.S. Supreme Court won't strike down the federal health reform law.

The law will likely survive, he said, because it's based on solid precedent that the court's conservative wing holds dear.

"They keep telling us that they don't believe in judicial activism, so I'm going to take them at their word," Jones said on Thursday before a town hall meeting in Marina with Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel.

If the court does strike down all or part of the law, though, he said California is in a position to implement its own health care overhaul. Already the state has incorporated aspects of the Affordable Care Act into state law, including the requirement that insurers put at least 80 percent that individuals and small businesses pay in premiums toward actual medical care.

Where California is "woefully behind" other states in health insurance reform, Jones said, is in the fact the insurance commissioner doesn't have the power to stop steep rate hikes, unlike regulators in 35 other states.

Just last week, Jones publicly declared a proposed rate increase by Aetna for small employers "unreasonable," the first time an insurance commissioner has done so under a new state law that gives them that power. Aetna went ahead with the rate hike on April 1, raising small business health insurance group rates by an average of 8 percent a year.

Having tried unsuccessfully to get a bill passed in the state Legislature to give regulators the authority to stop excessive rate hikes, Jones is now working with Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog Campaign to qualify a ballot initiative that would make insurance companies justify and get permission for rate increases.

"Californians are just sick and tired of double-digit increases in their health-care costs — it's just not sustainable," Jones said. "The insurance companies are making enormous profits at the expense of Californians and California businesses."


Kate Moser can be reached at 646-4487 or [email protected].

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