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California's health care system is broken. Health insurance premiums rose a whopping 153.5% since 2002, more than five times the rate of inflation. Health insurance companies set premiums in secret, and don't tell anyone how or why they raise our rates. It's no surprise that we're being ripped off.

From the front page of this morning's Contra Costa Times:

Consumer Watchdog will attempt to qualify a November initiative that would give the state veto power over rate hikes for many insurers. ...

California regulators last year won expanded authority to scrutinize health insurance rate hikes, but their continued lack of real power has consumers gearing up for a new battle with the insurance industry over rate regulation.

The new law permits regulators to conclude a rate hike is excessive, but they can only try to persuade or shame insurers into backing off.

Consumers want California to join the 36 states with some form of rate control.

Now registered California voters can do something to make that happen: Download and sign the Official California Ballot Petition to make health insurance companies publicly justify their rates, and get permission before rate increases take effect. Consumer Watchdog's campaign affiliate, Consumer Watchdog Campaign, will begin circulating petitions in the next few days to qualify the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act for the November 2012 ballot. It will need the signatures of 505,000 registered California voters to qualify.

In 1988, Consumer Watchdog's founder Harvey Rosenfield wrote Proposition 103 -- the landmark insurance reform initiative that regulated auto, home and business insurance rates. Since Prop 103 passed, auto insurance premiums have gone up just 3.8% in California, while they rose an average 42.9% nationally. California drivers saved $62 billion, according to the Consumer Federation of America.

It’s time to get control of health insurance premiums in the same way. If this ballot measure passes, we can:

  • Make health insurance companies publicly justify their rates, under penalty of perjury, before they take effect.
  • Limit how much they can spend on CEO salaries and bonuses.
  • Require health insurance rate hikes to be publicly approved before taking effect.

The initiative will finally give Californians the power to get skyrocketing health insurance premiums under control.