Rate regulation on 2014 ballot in California

Health insurance rate regulation in California has made its way to the state ballot in 2014, allowing Californians to decide whether the state insurance commissioner can reject insurers' rate hike proposals.

The ballot initiative, which was sponsored by Consumer Watchdog, would require insurers publicly justify and obtain approval for rate increases. Insurers also would have to refund consumers for excessive rates charged beginning this November, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

"This initiative gives voters the chance to take control of health insurance prices at the ballot by forcing health insurance companies to publicly open their books and justify rates, under penalty of perjuy," Jamie Court, proponent of the ballot measure and president of Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement.

Consumer Watchdog drafted the ballot measure, known as the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act, after a similar rate regulation bill failed to pass the California legislature in 2011, the Sacramento Bee reported.

The consumer advocacy group knows California insurers will make a tough opponent. "We expect a battle royale," Carmen Balber, a spokeswoman for Consumer Watchdog, told the Mercury News. "We have no doubt that the health insurance industry will throw down tens of millions of dollars to oppose this."

Indeed, California Association of Health Plans came out swinging as soon as the rate regulation was announced on the 2014 ballot. "This flawed, costly measure is not real health reform," CEO Patrick Johnston said in a statement. "This measure would give one politician too much power over health coverage, do nothing to address the underlying costs driving health care premiums and create an expensive and duplicative state bureaucracy that will be paid for with higher health insurance premiums."

To learn more:
- read the San Jose Mercury News article
- check out the Sacramento Bee article
- see the Consumer Watchdog statement
- read the California Association of Health Plans statement