Prop 45 Debate by Insurance Commissioner Candidates is Good Idea

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Debates between political candidates are being debated in California this election cycle. Despite an effort to get numerous debates, Neel Kashkari got his one debate with Governor Jerry Brown at a time of Brown’s choosing well before the election. Republican Lt. Governor candidate Ron Nehring got some attention from the media by making incumbent Gavin Newsom’s refusal to debate an issue in his campaign. Now, state Senator Ted Gaines, the Republican candidate for Insurance Commissioner, wants to debate incumbent, Democrat Dave Jones. But Gaines’ challenge is for the debate to be centered on one issue, Proposition 45 on the November ballot.

Not a bad idea.

As the Los Angeles Times headlined a story last week: Prop 45 is a Tough Issue for Voters. The issue is complex. A debate by the candidates for the office that has the most to do with Prop 45 would be beneficial as voters try to figure out whether to support or reject that measure and to understand the thinking of the candidates vying for the office.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones likes the idea of Proposition 45, which gives power to the insurance commissioner to void health insurance fee increases if he feels they are not justified. Senator Ted Gaines is opposed to the idea. He said in a press release, if Prop 45 passed, “It would scare companies out of the market and choke off the supply of innovative and affordable (insurance) products in this state.”

Let Gaines explain why that is so. Let Jones say why it is not so. That will help the voters understand the measure.

Proponents say giving more power to the Insurance Commissioner will keep health care costs in check. They argue that 35 states have such a power vested in a government office and that California’s current laws allow only examination of rate increases without the teeth to enforce changes.

Opponents argue that two state government agencies, the Department of Insurance and the Department of Managed Health already regulate insurance. Further, they say that Covered California, put in place to manage the Affordable Care Act in the state, could see its efforts disrupted if Prop 45 becomes law. They also object to the intervener provision within Prop 45 allowing an outside group to enforce the law through the courts and receive financial rewards for doing so. Consumer Watchdog, the group behind Prop 45, has used the same device to sue over violations in the auto insurance law.

Prop 45 is a crucial issue for small businesses, which seek health insurance policies for their employees that would be governed by the powers granted the Insurance Commissioner under the measure.

A debate between the two individuals who want to occupy the Insurance Commissioner’s office could help voters understand the ballot proposition and be guided through the details and possible outcomes that the measure proposes.

A debate between Gaines and Jones would serve the duel purpose of clarifying the differences between the candidates for Insurance Commissioner and at the same time help voters understand a complex ballot measure they will be voting on.

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