LA Times: Sen. Feinstein backs health insurance rate controls

A high-stakes ballot measure to give state regulators the power to approve health insurance rates in California has landed a heavyweight supporter: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

One of California’s most respected politicians, Feinstein has come forward as the chief spokeswoman and No. 1 booster of a proposed initiative to regulate hikes in health premiums.

“I am proud to tell you that I was the first person to sign a new ballot initiative petition that will reform the health insurance industry in California,” Feinstein, a San Francisco Democrat, wrote in an email sent to about 2 million registered voters.

The Senator urged recipients to print out the petitions and sign their names to help get the 505,000 signatures needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot. Efforts to pass similar laws in the state Legislature were opposed by the insurance and healthcare industries and failed repeatedly over the last five years.

The initiative, if it gets before voters, is likely to generate one of the most fierce and expensive battles of the 2012 electoral season.

The proposed ballot question is backed by the political arm of Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica activist group that passed California’s landmark Proposition 103 automobile insurance rate control initiative in 1988.

The health insurance initiative, Feinstein said, “would require health insurance companies to publicly justify their rates before rate hikes take effect.”

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