Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

By Darrell Smith
dvsmith@sacbee.com

Health care advocate Consumer Watchdog wants to take regulation of health insurance rates to California voters with a ballot initiative set for 2012.

The ballot measure would expand the Proposition 103 Act, which regulates auto and home insurance rates in California, to include health insurance rates. It would also roll back health insurance rates by 20 percent and give the Insurance Commissioner power to approve or reject rate increases.

The initiative push echoes Consumer Watchdog's successful effort to regulate auto insurance rates in the late 1980s even as it anticipates a diluted Assembly Bill 52, which seeks to give the insurance commissioner authority to regulate health insurance rates.

AB 52 moved to the Senate floor this week, but is facing growing opposition from medical groups, insurers - and increasingly - state agencies.

"The Senate doesn't look like it is going to pursue rate regulation in its strongest form," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog. "This is an opportunity to do (Proposition) 103 all over again for health insurance," Court said.

The measure's goals echo Proposition 103, the ballot measure 25 years ago that redefined how auto insurance was regulated in the state.

The health insurance ballot measure outlines a seven-point plan that would:

• Roll back rates by 20 percent;

• Bar insurers from using credit and insurance history to raise rates or deny coverage;

• Require insurers to gain permission from the state's insurance commissioner to raise rates;

• Bar insurers that repeatedly violate consumer protection laws from doing business in the state.

Call The Bee's Darrell Smith at (916) 321-1040.



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