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Consumer Watchdog Wants California To Regulate Health Insurance Hikes

KPCC 89.3FM PASADENA, CA

There’s a grassroots movement underway to change insurance law, giving California the power to regulate health insurance rate hikes.

The proposed initiative by Consumer Watchdog, a group based in Santa Monica, will require health insurance companies to ask permission from the state insurance commissioner before raising premiums. It’s modeled after Proposition 103, the organization’s 1988 ballot measure that now regulates how much auto insurance companies can charge.

"People can’t afford their health insurance," says Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court, "and this is going to put the power in their hands to tell the insurance company no when the rates are unjustified."

Court says California is among 17 states without any regulation — and that that’s why health insurance premiums have gone up five times faster than inflation during the past decade.

Opponents of the measure say it will limit patient access to care.

"We feel it's a deeply flawed measure that does nothing to address the cost drivers that are behind the increasing cost of medical care," said Paul Phinney, president-elect of the California Medical Association.
Meanwhile, Court says Consumer Watchdog is conducting an all-volunteer email campaign to gather the 505,000 signatures required by May 1 to put the initiative on the Nov. 2012 ballot. The first person to sign that petition: California Senator Dianne Feinstein.