In a 6-3 party line vote Thursday the California State Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB 52, a bill that would give California regulators the power to reject health insurance premium increases. Because the bill previously passed the Senate health committee back in July the legislation can now go before the full Senate. The fate of the bill in the full Senate is uncertain due to the large number of rich and powerful health care industry players lobbying to kill the law.
The legislation narrowly passed the State Assembly back in June by a vote of 42-1 after all the Republicans walked out in protest.
Part of the impetus for AB 52 is that the state of California has recently experienced double digit increases in insurance premium, making national news. Early this year Blue Shield of California sought to raise premiums for some by as much as 59 percent, while last year Anthem Blue Cross tried to increase premiums by as much as 39 percent.
Even if the state legislature fails to enact AB 52 it is possible California regulators might soon get the power to reject premium increases anyway. The group Consumer Watchdog announced it is looking into a 2012 ballot initiative that, in addition to providing tough oversight of premiums, would also create a public option and roll back current premiums.