This November the voters of California will likely decide whether or not to give their state regulators the ability to approve or deny health insurance premium increases. Today the group Consumer Watchdog turned in over 800,000 signatures for their ballot initiative which should be more than enough to qualify. From Consumer Watchdog:

800,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot are being filed at 58 county registrar offices across the state today.  The initiative needs 504,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, and it must be certified to qualify for the November ballot by June 28.  US Senator Dianne Feinstein is an honorary co-chair of the initiative campaign.

[...]

The ballot measure:

  • Requires health insurance companies to publicly disclose and justify, under penalty of perjury, proposed rate changes before they take effect.
  • Makes every document filed by an insurance company to justify a rate increase a public record.
  • Requires public hearings on proposed rate increases.
  • Gives Californians the right to challenge excessive and unfair premium rate 
increases.
  • Prohibits health, auto and home insurers from considering Californians’ credit history or prior insurance coverage when setting premiums or deciding whether to offer coverage.
  • Gives the elected insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified rate increases.

The initiative is important because even though the new health care reform law will require all Americans to acquire health insurance, it didn’t give the government the power to prevent price gouging or stop unreasonable rate increases.

The non-enforceable rating review provision that is in the Affordable Care Act has proven to be a total failure. While the federal law gives the HHS the power to simply declare that a rate increase is “unreasonable,” it wasn’t given the power to stop the rate increase from being implemented. The idea the government only needs to shame the insurance companies into doing the right thing has so far proven to be as idiotic and worthless as it sounds.

With so much money at stake expect this to be an heated battle with huge spending on the part of the health insurance industry.