Signatures Submitted for Health Insurance Rate Initiative

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Proponents of an initiative that would give California regulators the power to regulate health insurance rates submitted 800,000 voter signatures on Friday in hopes of qualifying the measure for the November ballot.

Consumer Watchdog called the initiative a "common sense proposal" to expand provisions of Proposition 103, which regulates auto and home insurance rates. Prop 103, also backed by the Santa Monica advocacy group, was approved by voters in 1988.

"Our initiative will subject health insurance rates to the same transparency and accountability,” said Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court in a statement before the group dropped off some of the signatures at the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder in Norwalk. “The legislature has refused to act for more than a decade; now it's the voters' turn to decide their own fate."

Under the initiative, changes to health insurance rates would need approval from the insurance commissioner. A nearly identical bill failed in the California Legislature last year.

Supporters need to get about 504,000 signatures approved as valid in order to get the initiative on the ballot. The signatures will be reviewed to ensure they meet various criteria, including whether the voters are currently registered.

A coalition of health industry and business groups called Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs and that includes the California Medical Association, California Hospital Association and California Chamber of Commerce, has formed to oppose the initiative, saying profit taking by insurers is not the chief cause of rate increases.

"We all agree that controlling health care costs is critical, but this flawed measure will do nothing to address the underlying costs driving health care premiums and will ultimately limit patients' access to care," said Don Crane, chief executive of the Los Angeles-based California Association of Physician Groups, also a member of the coalition. "We need to take the politics out of health care decisions."

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