California ballot measures to cap hospital prices, regulate health insurance rates emerge out of perennial conflict of trial bar and unions versus business groups
Even though they have not yet qualified for California’s general election in November and are still in the signature gathering stage, proposed ballot initiatives to limit hospital profits and subject health insurance and managed care plan premium rates to prior regulatory approval are already generating considerable political heat and smoke.
Both measures are playing not so much as health care reform measures designed to apply brute governmental force to hold down rapidly rising health care costs and premiums. More accurately, they represent new battlefronts in California’s perennial conflict between plaintiffs attorneys and labor unions on one side and tort reform and business interests on the other. Health payers and providers are aligning in the latter camp to oppose the measures.
Hospitals argue the proposed Fair Healthcare Pricing Act of 2012 that would cap hospital profit margins at 25 percent is an attempt by unions representing health care workers to gain leverage at the bargaining table. Meanwhile, health care providers this week announced a coalition to oppose the proposed insurance rate regulation measure, the Insurance Rate Public Justification and Accountability Act. It would add health insurance to existing law put in place by a 1988 ballot measure, Proposition 103, that subjected most property/casualty insurance rates to prior approval by the state’s elected insurance commissioner and subsidizes costs of those who intervene on behalf of the public to contest proposed rate increases. A similar proposal stalled in the current legislative session.