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San Diego, CA – Health insurance policyholders joined with bedside nurses from the California Nurses Association and consumer advocates supporting Proposition 45, which prohibits excessive rate increases, to deliver a pickup truck containing a ton of steer manure to Blue Shield’s San Diego offices.

The Proposition 45 supporters said they were simply returning some of the same material that the insurance company, which has given $12.3 million of policyholders’ money to the $57 million insurance war chest against Prop 45, has been shoveling to Californians in its deceptive advertising against the rate regulation measure. The four largest health insurance companies responsible for most of the money against Prop 45, Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross and its parent company Wellpoint, Kaiser and Health Net gave another $13.5 million against Prop 45 in just the last week.

“We’re here to give back the B.S. that Blue Shield and the rest of the health insurance industry has been throwing at voters in the anti-Prop 45 advertising that lies about Prop 45’s impact and hides the insurance companies’ funding.

Prop 45 simply extends to California health insurance companies the same rate regulation that exists in 35 other states for health insurance and has saved Californians more than $100 billion on their auto insurance,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog.

Prop 45 requires health insurance companies to get approval from the elected insurance commissioner before raising rates, but the advertising hides this fact and falsely claims that consumers have to choose between Prop 45 and “an independent commission.” The ads apparently refer to Covered California, the state health insurance exchange, but that appointed body does not have the power to reject excessive rate increases as they claim.

The No On Prop 45 campaign’s advertising has been widely branded as deceptive. Pulitzer prize-winning LA Times columnist Mike Hiltzik wrote about the No On Prop 45 campaign’s deceptions in a column titled "The 5 rules on how to kill a consumer-friendly initiative." Read the column here: http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-20141012-column-column.html#page=1

Experts with California State University’s Project for an Informed Electorate showed how the advertisements were misleading and gave it poor grades on Monday in a KCRA- TV report: http://www.kcra.com/politics/adwatch-grading-the-ad-attacking-proposition-45/29110806

A widespread insurance industry advertisement against 45 has a purported “small business owner,” who claims Prop 45 will hurt his business, but is in fact an actor who played Father Marquez in Modern Family. See the actor: https://www.facebook.com/consumerwatchdog/photos/a.79659553246.78407.18642913246/10152398038403247/?type=1&theater

The advertisement does not identify the actor as a paid spokesperson.

Read more about the insurance companies’ false advertising claims: http://www.yeson45.org/newsrelease/new-health-insurance-company-‘no-prop-45’-tv-ads-make-false-claims-about-protecting-smal

Yesterday, the insurance commissioner announced that a proposed rate increase impacting 120,000 employees of small businesses insured by Anthem Blue Cross was unreasonable but would go into effect regardless, because insurance companies currently do not need approval for rate increases. Under Proposition 45, the insurance commissioner could reject rate hikes he found to be excessive.

Blue Shield also recently raised its rates despite rate reviews conducted by Consumers Union, under an Affordable Care Act grant, that found the rates unjustified based on the insurance companies' record-high surpluses, unrealistic claims projections and excessive company perks.

For example, Blue Shield has 1600% more in its $4.4 billion investment reserves than is required by the State of California.  Proposition 45 can stop this “over-reserving” practice of insurance companies by giving the insurance commissioner the power to prevent rate hikes if companies engage in such creative accounting.

Health insurance policyholders spoke out today about the company’s practices and deceptive advertising.

Rena Marocco of Vista said: “Our premiums have steadily increased for the past three years but this year was the biggest jump - almost $400/month for my family.  We try to put some money away in savings, but that's all getting eaten up by the cost of our healthcare. Our monthly bill is almost as high as our mortgage.  And besides the premiums, I still have out of pocket expenses to pay for ongoing monitoring and treatment.  As a breast cancer survivor, I am constantly being told by my doctors to avoid stress - but how can I when I have to stress out about how I'm going to pay this huge insurance premium?  I support Prop 45 to stop these egregious premium hikes.”   

“Premiums for my wife and I increased close to 300% over the years for higher deductible health insurance plans that effectively offered no real coverage. We thought we were lucky when we got a subsidy with a Covered California plan. But now, even with some of our $1200 monthly premiums to Anthem BlueCross being paid for by the taxpayers, we still aren’t getting the coverage we were promised. My wife needed emergency services and Anthem stuck us with a huge bill that should have been covered. I’m still paying hundreds of dollars a month for coverage that isn’t worth it,” said Phil Rogul, of Carlsbad.

The nonprofit Blue Shield has also come under fire in San Francisco for having a multi-million dollar skybox at the new 49ers stadium while raising rates and cutting doctors’ networks.  The company recently refused to accept a petition at its San Francisco offices from 22,000 California taxpayers and policyholders who wanted access to those tickets since their premiums and tax dollars paid for the skybox.  Watch video of that protest: http://www.yeson45.org/video/kgo-tv-7-abc-sf-prop-45-supporters-protest-blue-shields-25-million-49ers-skybox

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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.