Posts Tagged ‘Senate Health Committee’

Health Committee Chair’s Questionable Financial Gains From Insurance Industry Lobbyists

September 9th, 2011

When California Senate Health Committee Chair Ed Hernandez’s foot dragging earlier this year nearly killed the single payer bill, SB 810, outright, I wondered whether health insurance industry lobbyists had gotten to him. Hernandez, a Democrat, eventually voted to move SB 810 out of committee, but only after a massive amount of arm-twisting by universal healthcare advocates and a public dressing down by a Democratic Party activist at the state convention. However, weeks after the vote, SB 810 was still placed on ice, to be re-introduced in January.

Hernandez then complained about another popular bill, AB 52, that would have allowed state regulators to pre-approve insurance industry rate increases. He voted that one out of committee too, but said he wouldn’t support a final version unless changes were made. Under industry pressure, AB 52 soon died in the State Senate in late August. Well, turns out there may have been a reason for all of Hernandez’s hemming and hawing. According to an investigation by Think Progress, he’s been on the health lobbyists’ payroll:

State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D), the chair of the health committee, voted for AB 52 but told the press he could not support the bill in its current form. Hernandez’s income is boosted by about $69,000 a year in payments from Kaiser Health Plans, the state’s largest insurer (and one of AB 52′s most prominent opponents) in rent at an office building owned by Hernandez. The unusual arrangement might present a serious conflict of interest, but Hernandez’s spokesman told ThinkProgress that the rent payments began shortly before Hernandez entered the legislature, and that Kaiser maintains a community outreach center in the senator’s building. (emphasis is the author’s)

Hernandez’s spokesman can try to spin this stinky arrangement until he gets dizzy. It doesn’t matter that the rent payments were made before Hernandez became a state senator. What’s problematic is that Hernandez continued this financial relationship with Kaiser while still sitting on the state Senate Health Committee. At the very least, Hernandez should have recused himself from the vote on AB 52. It makes one wonder if there are any other little arrangements the senator has got going with his health lobbyist buddies? The stench of corruption here is just too great to ignore.  It’s no wonder that we, the people of California, and the United States can’t get the kind of legislation passed that will truly address the dire problems we face, which includes replacing a morally bankrupt and deadly healthcare system with one that provides high-quality and affordable care to all. Our democracy has been hijacked by unethical business interests funneling money to our so-called “representatives” by means that may be legal in this country, but elsewhere, such “arrangements” would be called by another name.

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.

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.

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.


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.