Op-Ed: Prop. 45: Regulate Health Insurance Premiums

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Is health insurance in California affordable? Not if you buy your own health insurance and don’t get a federal subsidy.

Health insurance premiums in California have risen five times faster than the rate of inflation over the last decade. Recently, $250 million in proposed rate increases for individuals and small businesses were deemed unreasonable by regulators, but under state and federal law they had no power to stop them. In an August Field Poll, voters expressed support for the Affordable Care Act but dismay at the escalating premiums.

Thirty-five other states have a regulator who can stop excessive rate increases, but not California.

Proposition 45 requires health insurance companies to justify rate hikes before raising rates for 6 million individuals and small businesses. Prop. 45 will make the elected insurance commissioner the umpire over rate increases, thus creating accountability.

Federal law requires us to buy health insurance, but until Prop. 45 passes, health insurers can charge excessive rates.

Health insurers are spending $37.5 million to oppose Prop. 45, falsely claiming that government negotiation is enough to keep rates low. How can government purchasing have enough leverage when four health insurance companies control 94 percent of the state’s market?

Beleaguered consumers need Prop. 45’s regulatory stick, as well as Covered California’s negotiation carrot.

When voters enacted insurance reform Proposition 103 in 1988, The San Francisco Chronicle opposed it as too harsh, but its rate relief has proved an undeniable triumph for consumers. Policyholders required to buy health insurance under federal law deserve the same protection.

Jamie Court is president of Consumer Watchdog, the proponent of Prop. 45. www.yeson45.org.

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