New Anti-Prop. 45 TV Ad Misleads Viewers

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Proposition 45 would allow California's elected insurance commissioner to regulate health plan rates for 6 million Californians with individual policies or who get their insurance as employees of small businesses.

The No on 45 campaign recently released a 30-second television ad, now running in major media markets.

WHAT DOES THE AD SAY? A man and a woman, who say they are owners of a neighborhood hardware store, talk about the importance of controlling health care costs. That, they say, is why the business signed up for a health care plan through "the new independent commission."

"But along comes Prop. 45," says the man, "giving one Sacramento politician the power to override the commission." The measure, he says, "lets the politician take campaign money from special interests, then do their bidding instead of consumers."

The woman pipes in: "That's why small business and health care organizations across California oppose 45." The man ends the ad by saying, "It's just too much power for one politician."

IS THE AD TRUE? The ad is highly misleading.

For starters, there is no disclosure that the man in the ad is actor Efrain Figueroa, who has appeared in television roles such as Father Marquez in "Modern Family" and Jorge Machado in "The Shield." The woman is apparently an actress as well.

Using actors in campaign commercials is a common ploy. But California law says a TV ad must clearly disclose on the screen that an actor is being paid if the payment tops $5,000. Any payment of more than $500 must be disclosed in required campaign expenditures reports. It's unclear from those reports how much the actors in this ad were paid, but so far no disclaimer has appeared on the ad.

The ad also confuses viewers by referring to a "new independent commission." What the woman in the ad is referring to is the five-member board of Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange created by President Barack Obama's health care law. The exchange's board is anything but independent: Its members are appointed by state legislators and the governor.

Using a small business as an example of Proposition 45 is on point because the measure would apply only to people who buy their health insurance in the individual and small-business markets. In real life, however, the couple probably would have had a tough time buying health insurance for their business through Covered California. Its online small-business portal called SHOP, a health insurance marketplace developed for employers with two to 50 eligible workers, was such a disaster for insurance agents and small businesses during the first enrollment period that the exchange took it off-line by mid-February, accepting only paper applications after that. Fewer than 2,000 small businesses have enrolled in coverage through SHOP since late late year.

It's true that Proposition 45 would give one Sacramento politician the power to override the Covered California board. The measure would allow the state's elected insurance commissioner to regulate excessive health insurance rates, as is now done in 35 other states. California's commissioner already has the power to control rates for car and homeowners insurance.

To say that the commissioner would cater to "special interests" who give him or her campaign funds — as opposed to " consumers," most of whom also vote — is a highly unlikely scenario.

It's true that many small businesses and health care groups oppose Proposition 45. But almost all of the $43 million raised to kill the measure is coming from health insurance companies.

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