Tag Archives: Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Feinstein, the NSA, and the Left

feinstein photo: Dianne Feinstein photo_feinstein.jpgNYT explores her relationship to the left on intelligence

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has had of a bit of an on-again/off-again relationship with the Left. But to the NY Times, our senior Senator is a “liberal lioness”, whatever that means. Clearly she has done a lot for progressive causes, from gun control to fighting for reproductive freedom and many other issues. However, the issue that keeps coming up again and again is the balance between individual liberty and the importance of intelligence. And her position on the NSA leaks, PRISM, and the prosecution of Snowden doesn’t help the rift:

She fought so hard to outlaw assault weapons that the National Rifle Association deemed her efforts tantamount to proposing the largest gun ban in American history. Well before the Supreme Court took up same-sex marriage, she sponsored a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. And she urged President George W. Bush, and later President Obama, to shut down the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

But Senator Dianne Feinstein – California Democrat and liberal lioness – has taken on a role that is leaving many of her allies on the left dismayed: as perhaps the most forthright and unapologetic Congressional defender of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.(NYT)

Perhaps some on the Left would have expected something different, but for most, this is exactly what we expected. For better or worse, Sen. Feinstein has placed the needs of intelligence on a pedestal, there is nothing new here.

Sen. Feinstein Isn’t Giving Up on Assault Weapons Ban

Assault weapons ban only garnered 40 votes, but Sen. Feinstein will continue her work on the issue

by Brian Leubitz

Sen. Dianne Feinstein doesn’t always get a lot of love from the progressive community, and some of her good work tends to get lost. But on the issue of gun safety, there aren’t many leaders on par with our senior Senator.

Sen. Feinstein was the primary proponent of the assault weapons ban in 1994, and has been working on reinstating it since it lapsed in 2004. And, unfortunately, she just has not been able to muster up the votes, and even now, post-Newtown, the NRA proved too powerful.

A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines fell well short of the votes needed to pass the Senate Wednesday, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., vowed to continue her long fight for such legislation.

“I’m disappointed by today’s vote, but I always knew this was an uphill battle,” Feinstein said in a statement after her amendment garnered only 40 votes. “I believe the American people are far ahead of their elected officials on this issue, and I will continue to fight for a renewed ban on assault weapons.”(SacBee)

While some senators were posting tasteless photos on facebook, Sen. Feinstein was continuing her work on gun safety. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue, vast majorities of the nation want universal background checks and other provisions of the law. But few leaders have Sen. Feinstein’s tenacity on this issue, or any issue, and that alone is worthy of high praise.

The Preview Health Insurance Executives Don’t Want You To See

Starting this week one million Californians will pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for their health insurance. It’s a plot right out of Groundhog Day, only it happens every Spring, Winter, Summer and Fall.

Health insurance rates in California are like a runaway train and there’s no police force or firefighting squad with the power to stop them.  Thirty five states require health insurance companies to get permission before raising rates, but not California.

So Hollywood’s fighting back with a short movie trailer preview of an alternative future. This short preview is of the impact of a real ballot proposal – which only needs another two hundred thousand signatures to qualify for the November ballot. With enough signatures, Californians can then decide their own fate and stop outrageous rate hikes.

In Studio City, CA a self-employed, single mom watched her health insurance premium triple over the last decade. On May 1st the price will climb by 16%. She asks,” If I have to get pre-approval from my insurance company every time I want my health care paid for, shouldn’t they have to get approval when they want me to pay more?”

For a decade the legislature has answered no,  following the health insurance industries’ line that the market and federal health care reform can be trusted to moderate rates. Tell that to the million Californians hit with rate hikes on May 1st.

Over the last decade health insurance premiums  have shot up 153% — growing five times the rate of inflation (29%). Four companies, including Anthem Blue Cross, control 71% of the health insurance market – competition isn’t in the cards. As a result Californians don’t just move to cheaper plans, they also drop insurance. California has one of the nation’s highest uninsured rates.

Since 2003, the California legislature has refused to pass a law requiring that health insurance companies get approval before raising rates in the same way that auto insurance and home insurance companies have to today.  That’s why consumer advocates like myself have joined with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to qualify the ballot measure  that requires health insurance companies to live up to the same standards as other insurance companies.

More than 600,000 voters have signed our petition to make health insurance companies publicly justify their rates, as we rush toward the deadline to qualify for the November ballot. The preview of different future isn’t just a Hollywood story. It’s within our sights if 200,000 more Californians sign our ballot measure in the next two weeks.

Movie Rating: Not Suitable For Health Insurance Executives

by Consumer Watchdog

One million Californians will be slammed today with health insurance rate hikes as high as 20%. Consumer Watchdog Campaign has a solution.

Watch this short, funny movie trailer about an alternative future with no rate hikes, and share it with your friends.

Health insurance price hikes recur more often than Groundhog Day — Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. Now there’s something Californians can do about it.

Go to www.JustifyRates.org to download, print and sign the ballot petition to stop outrageous rate hikes. The short movie trailer tells the story. Watch it. Post it. Tweet It.

Let your friends know what’s happening and what they can do about it!

Help us beat the health insurance companies at the ballot.

Consumer Advocates, Patients Deliver Blank Check to Health Insurers Representing Cost of Rate Hikes

Consumer advocates and patients facing May 1 rate increases delivered a blank check to health insurance companies representing the hundreds of millions more that one million Californians will pay for their insurance, today in Santa Monica and outside Anthem’s San Francisco offices. They called on voters to sign the official ballot initiative petition to require health insurance companies to get permission before raising rates.

One million Californians – the “May Million” – will pay premium increases as high as 20% for their health insurance with Anthem Blue Cross, Health Net and UnitedHealthcare on May 1st.

This week, Anthem Blue Cross parent company CEO Angela Braly told investors that California doesn’t need the health insurance rate regulation initiative because federal law adequately protects patients. Braly made $13.2 million in compensation in 2011. Anthem Blue Cross will raise rates by more than $100 million for over 700,000 Californians even as it delivers rebates for overcharging consumers last year and raked in $856 million in profits in the first quarter of 2012.

Harvey Rosenfield, author of insurance reform Proposition 103 which has saved drivers $62 billion since 1988, said: “CEO Angela Braly told investors that California already has plenty of oversight of health insurance prices and doesn’t need our ballot measure. She should tell that to the 700,000 customers of Anthem Blue Cross in California who will pay over $100 million more when their health insurance premiums go up on May 1st. A CEO who made $13 million last year is completely out of touch with patients who can’t afford double-digit rate increases because premiums are rising at five times the rate of inflation.”

Jessica Blacher from Santa Monica is one of the “May Million” who was faced with a rate increase on May 1st. The proposed 23% hike in Jessica’s premiums was the fourth in just two years, and she was forced to trade her coverage for a catastrophic plan with lower benefits and higher out of pocket costs, including $9500 she must pay out of pocket every year on top of her premium.

Alison Heath, a self-employed mother from San Francisco, is also one of the “May Million,” and will pay a 19.7% rate increase on May 1st. Alison’s increase will be the third in less than two years, hiking the monthly premium on the Anthem policy that covers her and her husband to $1767 a month.

In her comments to investors Braly said California’s rate review process was “effective,” yet just last month a rate increase was implemented even though state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones found it was unreasonable, because no one in California has to power to prevent unreasonable rate increases.

Wellpoint’s 1st quarter financial report notes that medical costs increased just 4.8%, but California patients will see rate increases of up to 19.9%, more than four times that amount.

Consumer Watchdog Campaign, and supporters including U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, AARP, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Courage Campaign and Consumer Federation of California, have emailed millions of voters across the state, asking them to download, print, sign and return the petition at www.JustifyRates.org. The campaign has gathered more than 500,000 of the 795,000 signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, with just three weeks of signature-gathering remaining.

Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog and proponent of the ballot initiative, with Jessica Blacher of Santa Monica.

The ballot initiative, the “Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act:”

  • 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, and requires public hearings on some 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 insurance commissioner authority to reject unjustified health insurance rate increases.

$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.  

California Insurance Commissioner Can’t Stop Aetna’s “Unreasonable” Rate Hikes

Small Businesses Stuck With Unjustifiable 8% Rate Hike, 30% Increase Over Last 24 Months Says Department of Insurance

The California Department of Insurance has announced that Aetna is imposing an 8% annual health insurance rate hike on its small business customers despite state actuaries’ findings that the increase is “unreasonable” and not supported by data.  Consumer Watchdog Campaign says this demonstrates the urgency of voters passing its proposed ballot measure to make health insurance companies justify their rate hikes and get permission before raising rates.  The initiative, which is currently being circulated for signatures to place it on the November 2012 ballot at grocery stores and online at JustifyRates.org, would allow the Insurance Commissioner to reject a rate hike such as Aetna’s if state experts find it unreasonable.

“Until the Commissioner is allowed to say no to unjustified and excessive rate hikes, small businesses and families in California will continue to pay more than they should for health insurance,” said Jamie Court, proponent of the proposed allot measure and a director of Consumer Watchdog Campaign.  “Aetna’s rate hike is the poster child for why health insurance should be required to get approval before rate hikes take effect.”

According to the Department of Insurance, the Aetna subsidiary that sells health insurance in California earned huge profits in 2011 and paid a $1.7 billion dividend to its parent company last year.  Additionally, while the insurance company claims that it needs the rate increase to cover increasing medical costs, Aetna’s own data and documents don’t support that claim, which also conflicts with national data about medical cost inflation.

The ballot initiative being circulated by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require insurance company CEOs to justify under penalty of perjury that rate hikes are necessary and allow the Insurance Commissioner to reject any hike determined to be excessive.  Similar rules have applied to auto and home insurance in California and have saved motorists in California over $62 billion since 1988 when that law took effect.  The initiative also prohibits the use of unfair rating factors in health, home and auto insurance.

“Insurance companies like to say that there is already regulation of health insurance in California, because insurers are required to make their rate increase plans public.  But if a company can ignore official findings that a rate hike is unreasonable and jack up rates whenever they want, then the law needs to change,” said Court.

The petition to place the initiative on the ballot can be signed outside supermarkets or by going to www.JustifyRates.org and downloading the one-page petition.

Anthem Plans Rate Hikes Up To 20% for Nearly 600,000 Californians

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

As 2nd Anniversary of Federal Health Reform Law Approaches, CA Ballot Measure Seeks to Control Skyrocketing Health Insurance Rates.

Anthem Blue Cross will raise health insurance rates for nearly 600,000 Californians by as much as 20% on May 1. A ballot initiative to make health insurance more affordable by regulating premium increases is necessary to protect Californians from excessive rate hikes, said Consumer Watchdog Campaign today.

Friday is the 2nd anniversary of the federal health reform law, which will require every American to have health insurance by 2014 but does not control what private health insurance companies can charge. The ballot initiative proposed by Consumer Watchdog Campaign would require health insurance companies to publicly justify rates, under penalty of perjury, and get rate increases approved before they take effect.

“Every time insurance companies force another double-digit rate increase on consumers they make the case for our ballot initiative to rein in excessive rate hikes. If Anthem had to include a copy of our petition in the rate increase notice it mailed to more than half a million consumers, we’d already have the 505,000 signatures necessary to qualify the measure for the November ballot,” said Carmen Balber with Consumer Watchdog Campaign.

The ballot measure would regulate health insurance policies that cover 5.3 million Californians. 35 states have the power to reject excessive rate increases, but California does not.

“The Affordable Care Act ends some of health insurers’ worst abuses – like cancelling coverage when patients get sick, or charging women more just for being women. But the law falls short on cost control. Health reform cannot succeed if we don’t put the brakes on skyrocketing insurance premiums. Strong rate regulation will lower premiums, give insurers incentives to cut spending and save health reform,” said Balber.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in a case that will determine whether the law’s mandate that individuals purchase insurance violates the Constitution. Regardless of what the court decides, the experience with health reform in Massachusetts shows that consumers will need the protection of rate regulation to hold down insurance prices, said the group.

Consumer Watchdog released a report last year demonstrating how rate regulation has begun to curb insurance premiums in Massachusetts, where the mandate that people buy health insurance — the model for the 2010 federal reform law — failed to control costs. Other states that instituted or strengthened state laws requiring rate review and approval of health insurance rates, including New York, Oregon and Maine, have also seen cost-control results. States without regulation of health insurance rates have seen massive and unjustified rate increases take effect with no power to stop them.

A new report from the California HealthCare Foundation finds that 38% of Californians say the cost of their health insurance went up in 2011, and 37% delayed getting health care they needed because of costs.

“The reality is that consumers will not purchase insurance they cannot afford, and insurance prices become more out of reach for families every year,” said Balber. “Experience in states from California to New York has shown that rate regulation is the only way to force insurance companies to open their books, justify spending, and block excessive profits.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that 1 in 5 Americans are burdened by medical debt and half of them are unable to pay the debt at all. Health insurance premiums in California increased at a pace five times the rate of inflation in the last decade, according to the California HealthCare Foundation.

Download the Consumer Watchdog Report, “Health Reform and Insurance Regulation: Can’t Have One Without The Other”.

Read more about the initiative at www.JustifyRates.org.

Health Insurance Companies Attack Consumer Watchdog As Special Interest!

What Chutzpa! The four health insurance companies that control 71% of the California market today attacked Consumer Watchdog as “a special interest group.” Their press release below only acknowledges in the fine print that the attack is “Paid for by Anthem Blue Cross, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Health Net, Inc., and Blue Shield of California.”

The insurance companies are scared because we are on the road to qualify our ballot measure that forces them to publicly justify their rate hikes and lets the insurance commissioner reject unreasonable rates. Still, it’s Orwellian to see the big insurance companies hiding behind the lab coats of doctors and trying to smear a consumer group with a two-decade history of saving consumers tens of billions of dollars on their insurance bills.  

You can see the type of opposition we’re up against, and it’s only March. Think of what they’ll say and do between now and November.

Please help us remind Californians who is on their side and who is ripping them off every day. Donate now to the “Justify Rates” ballot measure campaign.

A report out today shows the health care industry generated $35.7 million in lobbyist spending in 2011, more than any other industry in California, and Kaiser was the largest spender at $3.5 million. Our ballot initiative would prohibit insurance companies like Kaiser from passing on lobbying expenditures to policyholders as premium increases, the same way current law prohibits auto and homeowners insurers from passing on those costs.

That’s why health insurance companies are scared and are willing to do anything to avoid regulation.

Will you make a contribution to the ballot measure campaign to fight back today?

CDC Study Finds 1 in 5 Families Struggling With Medical Debt, Shows Urgency of Need to Curb Insuran

Initiative To Allow Regulators to Reject Excessive Rate Increases Would Give California Families Protection

The first large-scale survey of Americans about their problems with medical debt show 1 in 5 are burdened by medical debt and half of them are unable to pay the debt at all. Having health insurance is a key to being able to pay for medical care, said the Consumer Watchdog Campaign, but spiraling insurance rates have left millions of Americans uninsured or badly underinsured. A ballot initiative proposed in California would make health insurance more affordable by regulating premium increases, and give the state the ability to curb excessive rates before they go into effect.

The report released today by the federal Centers for Disease Control found that medical debt hit hardest at younger families and the working class, people who are least likely to be able to afford insurance.

When one in five Americans are in medical debt it’s clear that we’re not doing enough to make health insurance affordable. Soon, federal law will require every American to have insurance, but nothing controls what health insurers can charge. States need the power to say no to excessive health insurance premium hikes,” said Carmen Balber with the Consumer Watchdog Campaign. “The California ballot initiative will allow the state to rein in out-of-control spending on insurance bureaucracy, executive salaries and profits that is driving the up cost of health care and driving consumers out of coverage and into medical debt.”

Lead report author Robin Cohen, of the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, said insurance, public or private, frequently determines whether families can pay their health care expenses.

“But even among people with private insurance, about 16 percent had trouble paying medical bills and 6 percent couldn’t pay at all,” Cohen told Health Day.

A ballot initiative sponsored by Consumer Watchdog Campaign and aiming for the November California ballot would require insurance companies to justify rate increases, under penalty of perjury, before they take effect. Regulators would have the power to reject or modify unreasonable premium rates, and limit the amount of wasteful overhead, profit and executive compensation that insurance companies may pass on to consumers. The measure would add health insurance policies sold to 5.3 million Californians to the state’s rate regulation law. It also prohibits health, auto and home insurers from using Californians’ credit history or prior insurance coverage to increase premiums or deny coverage.

The measure is based on the insurance reform law, Proposition 103, that regulated auto and homeowners insurance in California. That law has saved drivers $62 billion in premiums since 1988, according to a 2008 Consumer Federation of America report.

The campaign is using a mixed paid and volunteer effort to gather the 505,000 signatures necessary to qualify for the November ballot. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who was the first person to sign the petition, authored an email to millions of California voters asking them to download, print, sign and return the official ballot petition online at www.JustifyRates.org.

The federal health reform law requires review of some health insurance rate increases, but does not give any state regulator the authority to modify or deny rate increases even when they are found to be excessive or unreasonable.