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San Francisco, CA – Consumer advocates and nurses launched a new “Yes on 45” street art campaign hitting San Francisco and Sacramento this week that exposes the health insurance companies spending $37.5 million to oppose Proposition 45. Thousands of posters will be plastered through wild-posting in the coming days in other cities across the state.

The 2 ft. by 3 ft. posters feature a skull asking voters, “Health Insurance Rates Killing You?” with insurance company logos reminding the public that insurance companies are behind the misleading television and mail advertising that has begun to bombard voters as vote by mail begins this week.

See the poster here: http://www.yeson45.org/sites/default/files/skullad-prop45poster-2014.png

“We’re launching a guerrilla street art campaign today in San Francisco to expose the health insurance companies who are secretly behind the barrage of false advertising against Prop 45. They’re spending 37 million to try to hide the truth from the public – that voting Yes on Prop 45 will rein in the runaway excessive rate hikes that no one in California has the power to stop today,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

Real bedside nurses with the 86,000-member California Nurses Association spoke out in San Francisco today to decry the new deceptive, opposition mail pieces hitting voter mailboxes now that pretend to be backed by nurses and medical professionals but hide the health insurance companies behind the “No” campaign. The California Nurses Association is a sponsor of Prop 45.  

“No” mailers and advertising also falsely claim that a California commission “rejects health plans that are too expensive” and that Prop 45 will “override” its decisions. The commission referred to is Covered California, the state’s new bulk purchasing pool, which is not a health insurance regulator. Covered California does not have the authority to compel insurers to lower excessive rates.

Dr. Paul Song, executive chairman of the Courage Campaign, wrote to the spokespeople featured  in the “No” advertising and mailers, Dr. Amy Nguyen Howell, Dr. Marshall Morgan, Dr. John Maa, and RN Candace Campbell: “Our patients are suffering mentally and physically from outrageous rate increases, and as the Hippocratic Oath makes clear, we must ‘keep them from harm and injustice.’ I call on you to renounce your opposition to Prop 45 and remember the promise you once made to all of your future patients.”

Read the open letter here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-y-song-md/why-are-ca-doctors-breaki_b_5948386.html

The new mailer is full of misinformation, said Consumer Watchdog. For example:

•    The mailers falsely state that a vote against Prop 45 will “protect affordable healthcare for millions of Californians.” In fact, Californians do not believe insurance is affordable. An August Field Poll showed strong support for the Affordable Care Act, but criticism of high premiums. Consumers have watched health insurance premiums jump 185 percent since 2002—five times faster than the rate of inflation.  In 2012 and 2013, nearly 700,000 small business employees faced $250 million in health insurance rate hikes that state regulators had no power to stop but considered excessive. They went into effect anyway.
•    Contrary to the mailer’s claims, no one currently has the power to reject excessive rate hikes in California. Prop 45 requires insurance companies to publicly justify rate hikes, under penalty of perjury, and get approval for increases before they take effect. 35 other states regulate health insurance rates, but not California. These states, including New York, Oregon, and Connecticut, have delivered big rate cuts on their exchanges.
•    Voters do not have to choose between Prop 45 and Covered California, as the mailer claims: “Prop 45 would replace the Independent Commission system, instead giving control over health coverage to one politician.” Prop 45 retains both Covered California and rate oversight by the Insurance Commissioner’s office.  He does not override the exchange’s decisions on plan features or interfere with treatments—it helps negotiations by providing a stick behind Covered California’s carrot. Covered California does not cover at least 4.8 million who do not qualify for subsidies.
•    Covered California is not “Independent.” The Governor and lawmakers, who take campaign contributions from special interests including health insurance companies, choose board members who are political appointees. Consultants who created the exchange came from major health insurance companies, and key staffers who negotiate benefits and rates with insurers—behind closed doors—came from some of the biggest health insurance opponents to Prop 45.
•    The mailer would have readers believe that the insurance commissioner raises “millions from special interests” — ie insurance companies. In fact, no insurance commissioner has raised money from the insurance industry since 2002.

View the mailer here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/noon45mailer.pdf

Proposition 45 will:
•    Require health insurance companies to publicly disclose and justify, under penalty of perjury, proposed rate changes before they take effect.
•    Allow public hearings on proposed rate increases.
•    Give Californians the right to challenge excessive and unfair premium rate increases.
•    Give the insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified rate increases.

For more on Proposition 45, see: www.Yeson45.org

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Paid for by Consumer Watchdog Campaign – Yes on 45, a coalition of consumer advocates, nurses, attorneys, and policyholders.  777 S. Figueroa St., Ste. 4050, Los Angeles, CA  90017.  Major Funding by Consumer Watchdog Campaign and California Nurses Association.