Health Insurers Challenged by Consumer Advocate Harvey Rosenfield

Health Insurers Challenged by Consumer Advocate Harvey Rosenfield



Harvey Rosenfield, who used the initiative process in California to regulate auto insurance rates, is going back to the ballot. This time, he is considering taking on health insurers.

The consumer advocate and combative attorney who wrote the landmark Proposition 103 of California more than twenty years ago, is now preparing a ballot initiative that would compel health insurers to secure state government approval before they can raise premiums.

Rosenfield said that tougher controls are required to put some limits on an industry that is reaping high returns for shareholders and seven-figure salaries for executives while the consumers strive to pay for coverage. According to the California HealthCare Foundation, average premiums for family coverage in the state rose 7.5% in 2010. They increase by three percent countrywide for the same period. About 7.2 million or 1 in 5 Californians do not have health insurance.

Rosenfield said, “Everybody knows the horror stories. Premiums are going through the roof. A lot of people can’t get health insurance at any price. Benefits are going down. Company CEOs are getting rich.” Rosenfield is the founder of the advocacy group, Consumer Watchdog.

This month, a draft of its initiative was forwarded by Consumer Watchdog to state authorities. It is considered the first step toward putting the measure on the November 2012 ballot.

Getting it there will not be cheap. According to election experts, the advocacy group needs to gather signatures from among 505,000 registered voters, a process that could cost nearly or more than $3 million.

If the voters approve the measure, it would give California the toughest health insurance oversight regulation in the country.

Health insurers condemned the initiative as government meddling that could further increase insurance rates and lesser coverage for everyone.