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Santa Monica, CA –  Consumer Watchdog is sponsoring television ads in the San Gabriel Valley district of California State Senator Ed Hernandez to expose the fact that Hernandez, the Chair of the Senate Health Committee, has earned more than $350,000 in rental income for the state’s largest health plan, Kaiser.

“This level of income from a company that is constantly before his committee, and whose interests touch upon every level of the committee’s work, is hardly incidental and compromises Senator Hernandez’s ability to independently chair the committee,” wrote Jamie Court and Doug Heller of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog in a letter to California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg last week seeking Hernandez’s removal as Chair of the Health Insurance Committee.   Read the letter here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/steinberg_9-14-11.pdf

The television advertisement highlights an insensitive remark made by Hernandez to a constituent who testified about his mother being unable to afford health insurance at a hearing for Assembly Bill 52, which would have regulated health insurance premiums. Kaiser opposed AB 52 vehemently and Hernandez proved the principal roadblock to the premium regulation measure’s passage.  

Watch the television ad, created by SCN Communications, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwuETP3BFgI

The ad, which will run for weeks and is airing 266 times on cable news stations this week, shows Senator Hernandez’s response to the moving testimony of Monterey Park resident Joseph Villela about his family’s health insurance struggles.  Committee chairman Senator Hernandez simply laughed and noted that after redistricting, Mr. Villela would no longer be in his district.  After cracking his joke, and without even acknowledging the witness’s family plight, Senator Hernandez  immediately called “Next,” for the next witness.  

In its letter to Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, Consumer Watchdog wrote:

As the summer wore on, it became clear that Chairman Hernandez would be the chief roadblock to regulating the premiums health insurance companies could charge to Californians.  What was not clear at the time was the conflict of interest that should have required Senator Hernandez to recuse himself from the AB 52 vote and, more importantly, should have prohibited him from serving as Chair of the committee that oversees health insurance and California’s health plans…

With Californians so desperate for protection from high health insurance rates, it’s a travesty that the Senate’s appointed leader on health care issues is earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state’s biggest HMO.   He should be removed from this position immediately.

The payments from Kaiser to Senator Hernandez appear on Kaiser’s quarterly lobbying reports, Form 635, as “rent for office building lease” paid to Hernandez Family Properties, LLC.  
 

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