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June 07, 2007

Activists' health-care remedy

The same consumer group that spearheaded the ballot battle to regulate auto, home and other property insurers in California two decades ago is now targeting the health care industry.

With AB 1554 by Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights wants the Legislature to allow the state to set rates for medical coverage.

The bill would require health plans and health insurers licensed by the California Department of Managed Health Care and the California Department of Insurance to submit annual proposed rate increases for prior approval.

AB 1554 cleared an Assembly committee last week but still faces long odds in the Capitol, where health care insurers are among the biggest contributors to the campaign coffers of elected officials.

But supporters are preparing to take their cause to the ballot -- just as they did in 1988 when the Legislature declined to regulate auto and other property insurers, and voters approved Proposition 103.

Supporters estimate that landmark measure, which requires insurers to get prior rate approval from the state's insurance commissioner, has saved consumers billions of dollars while allowing insurers to make reasonable profits.

If consumer groups once again turn to the ballot, the issue of regulating health care insurers could be on the same ballot as next February's presidential primary, which promises to generate a large voter turnout.

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Posted by healthinsurance at June 7, 2007 12:28 AM