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Tougher regulation of health insurance rates wins in California Assembly

June 2, 2011 |  2:24 pm

California lawmakers are taking another stab at tougher regulation of health insurance rates.

The state Assembly has approved a bill that would require health insurers to get approval from state regulators to raise insurance premiums despite a determined effort by the insurance industry to kill the measure.

The Assembly passed AB 52, which would give the state’s elected insurance commissioner and a second regulator, the Department of Managed Health Care, under Gov. Jerry Brown, authority to reject increases they deem excessive. The regulators also could modify rate increases.

This is the fourth attempt by Assembly Democrats to enact tough rate regulation. The bill goes next to the state Senate.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, who as an assemblyman failed three times to pass a similar measure, applauded the vote, saying it would protect consumers.

“Since I took office [in January], Californians have made it exceedingly clear that they want me to reject excessive rate increases, but I do not have this authority,” Jones said.

He said the need for the legislation “has only grown as health insurance continues to become unaffordable for more and more Californians and businesses.”

-- Duke Helfand