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Bills on the Bubble: Health Insurance Rate Regulation

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Over the next couple of months, we'll look at some significant bills that didn't make it through the California legislature this year but could be back next year in an occasional series called "Bills on the Bubble."  We begin with a measure that would give the state's insurance commissioner the power to regulate health insurance rate increases.
Democratic Assemblyman Mike Feuer pushed AB 52 as hard as he could.  He got it through the Assembly, then a couple of Senate Committees - often with warnings from reluctant Democrats that they'd need changes to support it on a final vote.  But last month, days before the end of session, he realized he didn't have enough votes to pass the Senate.

Feuer: "Any time one tries to change the status quo - particularly where there are very strong, monied interests on the other side - the rowing gets tough."

Feuer says health insurance premiums are far too expensive to be affordable.  Patrick Johnston with the California Association of Health Plans disagrees.

Johnston: "Saying people can't afford health insurance is true for many Californians.  Saying the premium is unreasonable is not fair."

Because, Johnston says, only three percent of each premium goes towards an insurer's profits.  Slowly but surely, Johnston's group built opposition - and he believes the bill is done.

Johnston: "The mounting opposition to AB 52 means that its moment has passed."

Assemblyman Feuer says he's open to amending his bill - but he won't water it down.

Feuer: "This battle is going to continue until Californians aren't receiving unjustified health insurance rate increases that put them to the choice between paying the mortgage or afford a new doctor."

The bill could come up for a vote as soon as January - or as late as next summer.

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