Posts Tagged ‘insurance industry’

Insurance Rate Regulation Bill Passes Senate Health Committee

July 7th, 2011

The Sacramento Bee reported that AB 52, the legislation that would give regulators the authority to review proposed health insurance rate increases, passed the state Senate Health Committee on Wednesday.

Assembly Bill 52, the controversial bill that would impose rate regulation on health insurers, passed out of the state Senate’s Health Committee by a 5-to-3 vote Wednesday along party lines.

The bill, authored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer, D-Los Angeles, generated intense lobbying that pitted health care advocates against medical associations and business groups.

The advocacy groups support the bill, saying regulation of insurance premiums would protect consumers from paying excessive rates and make care more affordable.

The bill now goes to the state Senate Appropriations Committee, which consists of six Democrats (Christine Kehoe, Elaine Alquist, Ted Lieu, Fran Pavley, Curren Price, Darrell Steinberg) and three Republicans (Mimi Walters, Bill Emmerson, Sharon Runner). Below are their contact information:

Senator Christine Kehoe (Chair) – (916) 651-4039
Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair) – (916) 651-4033
Senator Elaine Alquist – (916) 651-4013
Senator Bill Emmerson – (916) 651-4037
Senator Ted W. Lieu – (916) 651-4028
Senator Fran Pavley – (916) 651-4023
Senator Curren Price – (916) 651-4026
Senator Sharon Runner – (916) 651-4017
Senator Darrell Steinberg – (916) 651-4006

It’s highly probable that AB 52 could be watered down, given the power of the insurance industry, the intense propaganda war the insurers are engaging in, and the fact that Health Committee Chairman Ed Hernandez says he won’t vote for the bill on the floor unless there are some changes. From the Associated Press:

The bill faced an end-of-the-week deadline for committee approval, but its fate is uncertain. It has drawn no substantive Republican support and Democratic backing is wobbly amid strong lobbying by the politically influential opponents.
Health committee’s chairman, Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Baldwin Park, pushed for significant changes to the bill before he would support it, but he voted for the measure Wednesday to keep it alive while negotiations over amendments continue.
“While I have had some concerns on your bill, I do support regulation,” Hernandez said.
He said he wants amendments to address concerns about political influence in decision making, whether outside parties could intervene in a rate case, identifying the medical costs that are built into insurance rates, and other matters before he will fully support the bill.

It’s imperative that we keep calling our representatives to overcome the power of the insurance lobby, get AB 52 passed, and onto Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. Find out your representative by clicking here. AB 52 will give millions of Californians some welcome financial relief until we can get SB 810 through and cut out the insurance industry from health care once and for all.

Sylvia@californiaonecare.org

Where Your Premium Dollars are Going, Part 2: Stock Buybacks

July 7th, 2011

In a previous post, we showed that health insurance companies are spending thousands of dollars of their customers’ premiums, not on medical care, but on lobbyists. But the insurers don’t stop there. According to industry whistle blower Wendell Potter, insurance companies are also spending premium dollars on repurchasing stock:

If you’ve been paying attention to what health insurance company CEOs have been saying to Wall Street over the past several months, you will know that they are spending more and more of their firms’ cash — which comes from you, of course — to “repurchase” their firms’ stock. And Wall Street absolutely loves that.

I once handled financial communications for CIGNA. So I knew that whenever the company could tell its shareholders that the amount of money it earned on a per share basis during the preceding three months was more than expected, those shareholders and other investors would likely show their appreciation by offering to buy even more shares of the company’s stock. When more investors are buying stock in your company than are selling it, the stock price will go up. And when that happens, everybody who owns stock or can cash in a bunch of stock options — including you, if you are a senior manager or a health plan medical director — will suddenly be richer.

Being very familiar with how and why this happens, your company’s top executives will do whatever they can make sure the earnings per share (EPS) exceeds Wall Street’s expectations. One of the ways they do this is by joining the investors in buying shares of the company’s stock.

Sylvia@californiaonecare.org

Where Your Premium Dollars are Going: To Lobbyists

July 5th, 2011

It’s bad enough that much of our hard earned money goes into health insurer CEO pockets. It’s even worse that much of our hard earned money is also going into the pockets of lobbyists the insurance industry hires to fight legislation that would actually save us money. Tomorrow, the state Senate Health Committee is scheduled to vote on AB 52, legislation that would allow the insurance commissioner to review proposed health insurance rate hikes. And the industry is siccing their lobbyists – paid for by their customers’ premiums – to kill the bill: From Think Progress:

The California Chamber of Commerce has announced that AB 52 is on the top of its list of “Job Killers,” meaning they will make killing the legislation a top priority. The Chamber purports to represent all businesses in the state, but its board membership reveals mostly multinational corporations. Health insurers have a seat at the table. California Chamber board members include Greg Adams, a top Kaiser Health Plans official, David Anderson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare of Southern California, and Pam Kehaly, President of Anthem Blue Cross of California. Diamond membership to Chamber requires annual dues of at least $100,000, suggesting that top insurers have funneled hundreds of thousands of their customers’ premium money to a right-wing lobbying group, rather than spending it on actual medical services.

This is more evidence of how the healthcare system in this country has become shamelessly corrupt. We have a situation where companies that are supposed to be looking after the health of their customers, are instead using their customers’ own money against them. No other country allows such an outrage, and we shouldn’t either.

Sylvia@californiaonecare.org

ALL HANDS: Critical vote looms in California, today is our chance to halt insurer price gouging

July 5th, 2011

by nyceve

There is an immensely important vote on Wednesday in the health committee of the California State Senate.

It’s a vote on AB 52 to regulate health insurers, and give the insurance commissioner the ability to review, approve, deny or modify excessive health insurance rate hikes – much as regulators do now in California with auto insurance.

As you might imagine, the insurance industry is committed to doing whatever it takes to defeat this vote and the bill.

We need your help defeating the insurance industry.

Do you remember a few years ago, everyone lent a hand to try and save the life of Nataline Sarkisyan, who was being denied a lifesaving liver transplant by CIGNA?  We need the same sort of citizen firepower today.

We can defeat them tomorrow, if we all pitch in today.

A victory for the people in Sacramento will belong to all Americans, not just residents of California who desperately need some small relief from egregious insurer price gouging.

AB 52 would give the insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, the ability to regulate health insurance rate hikes.

“I have the authority right now to reject excessive rate hikes for auto insurance, homeowners insurance, property insurance, casualty insurance, but not health insurance,” said California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

The state Senate Health Committee is voting on Wednesday about whether AB 52 [Link to the bill here] can leave committee and be voted on by the entire State Senate.

What you can do today to help the battle for AB 52:

If you are a resident of California:

Please call these Democrats on the Senate Health Committee and demand that AB 52 go to the floor for an up or down vote. This is very similar to the marriage equality vote in New York State. The Republican controlled New York State Senate ‘allowed’ that bill to come before the full New York State Senate for an up or down vote.

These are the people in Sacramento we need you to call.

Senator Ed Hernandez (Chair) — 916-651-4024
Senator Elaine Alquist — 916-651-4013
Senator Kevin de Leon — 916-651-4022
Senator Mark DeSaulnier (AB 52 co-author) — 916-651-4007
Senator Michael Rubio — 916-651-4016
Senator Lois Wolk (AB 52 co-author) — 916-651-4005

Here also is a link to where you can find the telephone number of your state representative. Please call them NOW and 1) make sure they know they must support AB 52 and, 2) demand your representative tell Committee Chairman Senator Hernandez and other members of the Senate Health Committee to allow the bill out for a vote of the entire Senate.

If you’re not a resident of California:

If you don’t live in California, odds, are you know people in California.  This bill
is important to them whether they know it or not.  So how about giving them a call and asking them to give their State Senator a call.

Or even better, use the ‘share’ function at the top of the diary and email this diary to anyone and everyone you know in California, with a note that they should make a call. You can also put it on your Facebook page and put it on your Twitter stream.

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Tomorrow, the vote in the Senate Health Committee is to pass the bill out of committee so that it can be voted on by the entire Senate. You’d think this would be a straightforward vote, well you’d be very wrong. The California Association of Health Plans is spearheading a campaign of lies and scare tactics. Read some of their crap here.

Guess who doesn’t want this vote to happen?  You got it, the insurance industry.  These thugs are spending a fortune to defeat this lone vote. Kaiser alone has spent $700,000 to kill this and other health care bills in Sacramento.

I would say, in the struggle to make healthcare a right in this country, this vote today, in it’s own way, is as important as the marriage equality vote was in New York State. It’s a shot over the bow of this predatory industry.

Every nail in the coffin of the for-profit insurance industry, is an important victory for the American people–not just the people of California–and against these murderous corporations.

The other day, I explained why Wendell Potter called the Blue Shield profit cap ‘a PR ploy and bullshit’. Blue Shield did this in a crass attempt to deflect attention from the vote on AB 52.

The stakes could not be any higher. On July 1st, 1.5 million Californians received rate hikes, some as high at 92%.

I urge you to read this article entitled Health Insurers Use Scare Tactics to Block Regulation of Rate Inceases by Michael Hiltzik the business editor of the Los Angeles Times about how the insurance industry is fighting AB 52 with a massive heavily funded campaign of deceit, distortion and outright lies.

What we’re seeing here from the insurance industry, is but a small appetizer of how they will use every weapon at their disposal, once the campaign for single payer gets started in earnest.

Let’s show the murder by spreadsheet industry what we’re made of today.

Here again are the people we need you to call.

Senator Ed Hernandez (Chair) — 916-651-4024
Senator Elaine Alquist — 916-651-4013
Senator Kevin de Leon — 916-651-4022
Senator Mark DeSaulnier (AB 52 co-author) — 916-651-4007
Senator Michael Rubio — 916-651-4016
Senator Lois Wolk (AB 52 co-author) — 916-651-4005

Originally posted in the Daily Kos. Nyceve is a board member of California OneCare.