Advocates Call for Reform of Petition Signature Counting Process
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Aug. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Data released today by the Secretary of State shows a ballot measure to require health insurance companies to publicly justify rate increases should have been on the ballot this November, but was unnecessarily delayed to 2014 due to a flawed signature verification process, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign. The measure missed the deadline to qualify for the 2012 ballot because a short count of signatures incorrectly projected the number of signatures submitted. The petition signature verification process needs reform, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign, sponsor of the ballot measure.
As of today, with one county left to report, the full signature count from the Secretary of State's office shows that 567,790 valid signatures were submitted, or 112% of the amount necessary. Only 110%, or 555,236, are required under current law to qualify under the short count.
Download the data released by the Secretary of State today: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/full_check.xls
"A flawed signature verification process wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on an unnecessary full signature count, and Californians now have to wait two extra years to vote to get outrageous health insurance prices under control," said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign. "Citizens usually take to the initiative process only when legislative reform has proved impossible, meaning ballot measures address problems for which a fix is long overdue. It's time to lower the random sample threshold to ensure that measures like this one make the ballot they are intended for, and save the counties the significant time and expense of a full count."
Initiative measures can qualify for the ballot with a 3% random sample count of signatures to save county registrars of voters the time and expense of counting and validating millions of petition signatures. The results of a random sample count must show 110% of the total required signatures have been submitted in order to avoid a full signature count.
The random sample count for the health insurance regulation measure was completed in June and projected that 109% of the necessary signatures had been submitted, too few to forestall a full count. The results of the full count announced today show that proponents submitted enough signatures to be well above the requirement, 112% with one county left to report.
The 110% threshold should be lowered, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign.
"Californians need relief now from health insurance premiums that are rising at five times the rate of inflation, but a broken process delayed reform," said Balber. "Fortunately the law is retroactive, so insurance companies will have to refund to consumers any excessive prices they charge after Nov. 7 of this year."
The ballot initiative builds on California's successful model of rate regulation for auto, home and other property and business insurance that requires approval of insurance rate increases before they take effect. That law, Proposition 103, was enacted by the voters in 1988 and has saved California drivers $62 billion.
The Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act:
- Requires health insurance companies to publicly disclose and justify, under penalty of perjury, proposed rate changes before they take effect.
- Makes every document filed by an insurance company to justify a rate increase a public record.
- Requires public hearings on proposed rate increases.
- Gives Californians the right to challenge excessive and unfair premium rate increases.
- Prohibits health, auto and home insurers from considering Californians' credit history or prior insurance coverage when setting premiums or deciding whether to offer coverage.
- Gives the elected insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified rate increases.
- Would require refunds to consumers for excessive rates charged as of November 7, 2012.
Read the initiative here: http://justifyrates.consumerwatchdogcampaign.org/read-initiative.
For more information and to sign up for the campaign visit: www.JustifyRates.org.
Consumer Watchdog Campaign is chaired by insurance reform Proposition 103 author Harvey Rosenfield. Consumer Watchdog Campaign is the campaign affiliate of Consumer Watchdog, which was founded by Rosenfield and whose president, Jamie Court, an award-winning consumer advocate and author, is the proponent of the proposed ballot.
SOURCE Consumer Watchdog Campaign