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Propositions 45, 48: Two Obvious 'Yes' Votes

SANTA MONICA MIRROR
http://www.smmirror.com/articles/Opinion/Propositions-45-48-Two-Obvious-Yes-Votes/41456

It's almost a foregone conclusion that the Proposition 1 water bond on next month's ballot will pass easily: Every poll shows it with almost a 2-1 lead heading into the vote and the opposition has virtually no money for television commercials.

But two other propositions are almost equally deserving of yes votes, Propositions 45 and 48.

Proposition 45 is almost a no-brainer. It would place health insurance rates under the same kind of regulation that has made California the only state where automobile insurance prices have fallen over the last 25 years since voters adopted the 1988 Proposition 103 and put car and property insurance rates under the authority of the state insurance commissioner.

One look at the list of donors to the No on 45 campaign (available on the secretary of state's website at http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1343998&session=2013), reveals that through the end of September, all $34 million-plus spent to defeat 45 had come from the state's largest health insurance companies: Blue Shield, Anthem Blue Cross and its parent company Wellpoint, Kaiser Foundation, United Healthcare and HealthNet.

The single biggest check came last year from Wellpoint, which plunked down more than $12 million almost instantly when it became clear 45 would reach the ballot.

Radio and television ads financed by those big bucks are misleading as can be, warning that 45 could somehow reduce the negotiating power of the commission that regulates Covered California's rates under Obamacare. It won't. But it will require insurers to justify rate increases for groups and individual policies before they can be bumped up.

The bottom line: The officials who would regulate health insurance rates under 45 have already saved Californians more than $105 billion over the years via car insurance rate hikes that didn't happen. This proposition is sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, the same populist outfit that wrote and sponsored Proposition 103 in 1988, getting it through despite being outspent 60-1 in that election by the big auto insurance companies.

The need to approve Proposition 48 may not seem as obvious, because its passage would simply allow construction of a new Indian casino already approved by every state and federal authority with a voice in the matter, from the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.

While it's true this gaming compact would be the first allowing a Native American tribe to build a gambling hall off reservation land in California, approval in no way means other tribes would have an easy time gaining a similar nod.

(Full disclosure: The writer is part-owner of the Madera Tribune, headquartered about one mile from the planned site of the putative new casino, to be owned by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians.)

In a state suffused with Native American casinos, this one is controversial only because it would adjoin State Highway 99 about 25 miles north of Fresno and presumably attract some gamblers who now take their money to other nearby casinos. In fact, almost all funding for the No on 48 campaign as of Sept. 30 came from existing Indian casinos which fear new competition.

The two biggest contributors to the campaign against 48 are the existing Table Mountain and Chukchansi Gold casinos, also located near Fresno, and their financial backers. The second-leading contributor to the No campaign is Chukchansi's leading lender, New York's Brigade Capital Management.

The No campaign calls on voters to "Keep Vegas-style casinos out of neighborhoods," but it's really about eliminating competition. There is in fact no neighborhood adjacent to the casino site, only a hotel, gas station and open land.

Meanwhile, building the casino would produce about 4,000 permanent jobs in Madera County, where unemployment runs about 25 percent above the statewide average. It would also draw workers from nearby Fresno and Merced counties, whose unemployment is even higher.

Only an accident of fate and the fortunes of long-ago tribal warfare left the North Forkers so far from a major highway that they need to build off their reservation.

The bottom line: Both these propositions and the water bond deserve yes votes both on their own merits and because of the disingenuous nature of the opposition.