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$11.6 Million In Campaign Cash to Politicians Fueled Health Insurer Campaigns to Kill Rate Reform

Ballot Measure to Regulate Health Insurance Prices Will Let Voters Decide Whether To Regulate Health Insurance Prices

A new analysis at followthemoney.org finds that health insurance companies gave $11.6 million in campaign cash to California politicians, including $7.4 million to candidates for the California legislature, between 2000 and 2010. The largest health insurance donor in California over the last decade was Wellpoint, the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, which will increase health insurance premiums as much as 20% for nearly 600,000 California policyholders on May 1.

Click here to find the report, “Health Insurance Interests Invest Heavily in California Campaigns.”

Health insurance companies have wielded their influence in Sacramento to kill legislation introduced every year for the last decade that would have required health insurers to get approval before increasing patients’ insurance premiums. The largest recipients of health insurer money were lawmakers that voted against or blocked reform. They include: Lou Correa ($119,967), Gloria Negrete-McLeod ($135,610), Ron Calderon ($65,700) and Juan Vargas ($42,122).

A ballot measure proposed for the November ballot will go around the insurer roadblock in the legislature to let California voters decide whether to regulate health insurance rates, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign today. Dario Frommer, who received $150,388 from health insurers while in office, now works for the industry and wrote the industry’s analysis of the ballot measure for the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“Health insurance companies paid California politicians an $11.6 million bounty to kill rate reform over the last decade. But we’re lucky in California, because when compromised politicians stand in the way of reform the voters can take charge. This ballot measure will let voters decide if it’s time to force health insurers to rein in skyrocketing rate hikes,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign.  The analysis issued at followthemoney.org also found:

  • The top four health insurance industry contributors, Wellpoint, Kaiser, Blue Shield and Health Net, gave $5.5 million to candidates. (These companies are also the four largest health insurers in California.)
  • More than half, $5.3 million, of the money given by health insurers to candidates went to members of the Health or Insurance committees responsible for bills that regulate the industry.
  • Health insurance companies also contributed $2.9 million to support and oppose ballot measures.

The ballot measure to regulate health insurance rats can be downloaded to print and sign at JustifyRates.org. It would require health insurers to publicly justify rate changes, under penalty of perjury, and give the state insurance commissioner the ability to modify or deny excessive rate increases. Health insurance premiums in California have gone up at 5 times the rate of inflation over the last decade.