California: the fight for protections against excessive insurance rates will go on

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Dedicated to affordable, quality healthcare and coverage for all Americans.

By Consumers Union on Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Earlier this year, 150,000 Californians saw their Anthem Blue Cross health insurance rates jump by an average of 16 percent even though state regulators declared the hike to be “unreasonable.” Though California regulators have the ability to determine whether health insurance rate hikes are excessive, they don’t have the power to prevent them from going into effect.  

That’s why Consumers Union, as well as countless health, senior, labor, business, religious and community advocacy groups, pushed for AB 52.  Under this bill, if insurance premium hikes were found to be excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory, regulators could negotiate lower rates or, in extreme cases, deny hikes altogether.

Unfortunately, with less than a week left to act, and with negotiations on amendments running out of time, the author of AB 52, Assemblymember Mike Feuer, reluctantly withdrew the measure until next year. The bill simply did not have enough Senators willing to support rate protections, despite a strong chorus of support from families and small businesses throughout California. 

For the past nine months Consumers Union activists sent thousands of emails and placed thousands of calls supporting AB52, successfully moving the bill through the Assembly and two Senate committees. And while we’re disappointed with this setback, we are not discouraged. Californians want transparency and accountability in the health insurance marketplace and they want a watchdog on their side and with your help, we will continue the fight for health insurance consumers next year.

Fortunately, AB 52 has another shot next year and we won’t have to start over and revisit the legislative hurdles the bill has already passed through.  In short, we will be starting much closer to the finish line in 2012. 

In the meantime, with every passing rate hike, the public urgency regarding the need for more oversight will grow and we will redouble our efforts to push for the passage of this common sense bill.

Consumers Union cannot thank you enough for all your support! Nearly every successful, meaningful reform has taken multiple years of tireless effort before finally becoming law.  AB 52 has a good chance next year thanks to your support.  In the mean time, we encourage you to continue to speak up and let your state Senators know how important rate protections are for you.

 

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