Rate regulation bill passes in California Assembly

The California Assembly has approved a bill that would require health insurers to get approval from state regulators to raise insurance premiums--regardless of the insurance industry's determined efforts to kill the measure, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Considered one of the year's most controversial and intensively lobbied bills, AB 52 allows the state insurance commissioner or the Department of Managed Health Care to reject increases in health insurance rates they deem excessive. The regulators also could modify rate hikes. 

The Assembly passed the bill without any Republican support. After GOP members were denied their request to call a caucus to discuss the measure, they walked out of the chamber in protest, the Sacramento Bee reports. The remaining Democrats conducted a brief debate, with Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who introduced the bill, arguing that rate regulation is needed because "health insurance rates are skyrocketing."

Assemblyman Bill Monning, a Monterey Democrat, said the bill wouldn't give regulators a free hand to reject rate increases, but would require that they be supported by financial data. "We do it for other forms of insurance in this state," he said. "Rates should be based on objective criteria," he said, not the assertions of a profit-making company, according to the Associated Press.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who as an assemblyman failed three times to pass a similar bill, applauded the vote, notes the LA Times. "Since I took office [in January], Californians have made it exceedingly clear that they want me to reject excessive rate increases, but I do not have this authority," Jones said, adding that the need for the legislation "has only grown as health insurance continues to become unaffordable for more and more Californians and businesses."

The bill now goes to the Senate.

To learn more:
- read the rate regulation bill
- read the Associated Press story
- see the Sacramento Bee article
- check out the Los Angeles Times piece