Prop 45 gives California residents the power to control their health insurance rates

Prop45

By The New York Times

LOS ANGELES — A year after the federal Affordable Care Act took effect, California voters are now considering another major change to health care: a ballot measure that would give state officials the authority to veto health insurance rate increases for individual and small group plans.

Proposition 45 would hand broad new control of the individual health insurance market to the state insurance commissioner, who could reject rate increases deemed excessive. The measure is designed to keep costs down for consumers in a state where health care premiums have spiked in recent years, raising public ire.

But that was before the Affordable Care Act. Now, Covered California, the state’s health care exchange, negotiates rates with insurers. And opponents of the ballot measure warned that it could undermine the early successes of Covered California, which enrolled more than 1.1 million people — more than any other state — in its first year.

With millions at stake for consumers and insurance companies, the campaign has become one of the most expensive in the state. Insurers in California — primarily Kaiser Permanente, WellPoint and Blue Shield of California — have poured more than $55 million into defeating the measure, more than 15 times what the supporters have raised.

Dave Jones, the insurance commissioner, who is running for re-election, said the huge sums that insurance companies had spent trying to discredit the measure and its supporters demonstrated the need for laws to stop them from raising rates at will.

“Even with the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Californians are still facing double-digit rate hikes,” Mr. Jones, a Democrat, said. “Right now, health insurance rates are set behind closed doors. The public has absolutely no say. This proposition is about allowing the public to participate.”

Most states require approval by state regulators for at least some health care rate increases, according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

But Proposition 45 would go further than other states: Even after the commissioner approved a rate increase, members of the public could sue to stop it.

The insurance companies, all three of which have refused to speak publicly about the measure, are hardly the only opponents. Health care reform advocates, including the Democrats who dominate state politics here, remain split. Even some longtime supporters of more robust health insurance regulation have balked, saying that additional regulations could confuse consumers or drive insurers from the marketplace.

Unlike with auto or property insurance, most consumers can sign up for new health coverage only during the annual open-enrollment period that begins in November.

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5 Responses to Prop 45 gives California residents the power to control their health insurance rates

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