The new federal healthcare legislation could bestow broad new powers on California’s next insurance commissioner, already one of the nation’s most powerful jobs of its kind, reports the Los Angeles Times. “Healthcare reform raises the stakes in California insurance commissioner election.” Four candidates are running for their parties’ nominations in the June 8 primary election — Democrats Dave Jones and Hector De La Torre, and Republicans Brian D. Fitzgerald and Mike Villines – and the winner of the June 8 primary will face four other minor party candidates in November.
In addition to new authority under federal law, the insurance commissioner may gain the regulatory powers currently under the charge of the California Department of Managed Healthcare, which oversees health maintenance organizations, if the Legislature approves and the governor signs a bill that would shift all regulatory power to the commissioner.
This year’s insurance commissioner race is one of the most important in the state’s history.
We support Democrat Dave Jones, who proved a strong consumer advocate while serving as a California Assemblymember. In addition to supporting the regulatory shift from the Department of Managed Healthcare, Jones wants California lawmakers to give the commissioner the power to approve or reject insurer requests for rate increases, subjecting health insurance rates to the same detailed approval process that applies to automobile, home and other types of property and casualty insurance.
“I’ll be working to impose rate regulation on health insurance and healthcare plans to rein in the excessive rate increases that have afflicted California consumers year after year for the past 10 years,” Jones told the Times.
We believe Jones has the experience, leadership skills and ability to protect consumers as insurance commissioner, as well as hold insurance companies accountable when they break the law or deny benefits their customers rightfully deserve. From what we have seen thus far, he is fully capable of fulfilling the challenges facing the state and the insurance industry during the next four years and of building a bureaucracy that works in the consumers’ interests.