Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums . . . In California, Aetna is proposing rate increases of as much as 22 percent, Anthem Blue Cross 26 percent and Blue Shield of California 20 percent for some of those policy holders, according to the insurers’ filings with the state for 2013. These rate requests are all the more striking after a 39 percent rise sought by Anthem Blue Cross in 2010 helped give impetus to the law, known as the Affordable Care Act . . . (The federal review process required under Obamacare) demonstrates the striking difference between places like New York, one of the 37 states where legislatures have given regulators some authority to deny or roll back rates deemed excessive, and California, which is among the states that do not have that ability. New York, for example, recently used its sweeping powers to hold rate increases for 2013 in the individual and small group markets to under 10 percent. California can review rate requests for technical errors but cannot deny rate increases. — New York Times, Page One, Sunday, Jan. 6, 2012
Let’s break down the information contained in this passage from the top of the New York Times story: Republic and Democratic Legislatures in 37 states have enacted laws that allow for government control of health insurance rates.
But not California.
How is that possible in a state that the Democrats — the party that would have us believe they stand up for the little people, the uninsured, self-employed, small businesses that are “particularly vulnerable” to these soaring rates — have so long dominated the state Legislature and now hold super-majorities, the governor’s and all other state offices and can do anything they want?
All you have to do is follow the money at the Secretary of State’s Cal-Access website and the answer is obvious.
Search the words insure and insurance and you will find there are more than 500 political action committees listed for all kinds of interests with a stake in higher rates for health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, all kinds of insurance — even a few that want regulation and controls on rates.
I went through the PACs listed under the letters “A” and “C” and turned up a lot of interesting insights from my sample that showed there was a vast array of medical interests from the big money insurers, medical and dental groups, hospitals, dermatologists, eye doctors, chiropractors, nurses, pharmaceuticals and on and on that benefit from keeping rates — and fees — high and unregulated.HEALTH-PACs
It’s why big health insurers like Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) and Blue Shield can get away with price-gouging as they do — greedy actions that drive hordes of uninsured people into public hospitals, sticking taxpayers with the bills while they reap huge profits.
Even beyond the millions of dollars this vast and wealthy industry throws around to buy the legislature, they also spend a fortune on lobbyists — $2 million in the last two-years election cycle by Anthem Blue Cross alone, according to state records.
The campaign money is doled out without regard to party affiliation but the champions by far are Democrats. You can decide for yourselves whether that’s because they are sleazier than Republicans or because they have all the power to help or hurt.
Not surprisingly, the biggest recipients incipient of the industry’s largess are the leaders of the Assembly and Senate, John Perez and Darrell Steinberg but many others are right up there. Kevin DeLeon, Richard Pan, Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra among the Democrats and Tony Strickland and Connie Conway among the Republicans.
But the ones that you need to pay attention to the most are the five legislators running to take over the L.A. City Council and give failed state lawmakers led by Council President and former Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson a foolproof majority with City Hall political staffers likely to fill five seats and two ex-cops Bernard Parks and Joe Buscaino rounding out the horseshoe.
In terms of legislators being on the take from the health care industry, Council candidates Gil Cedillo, Mike Davis and Curren Price are relatively small-timers compared to 2JobBob Blumenfield and Felipe Fuentes, who are both heavily favored to win Valley seats and are both big-time recipients of health industry contributions and just about any other special interest looking for advantages at the expense of the public interest.
Blumenfield — notorious for having the audacity to run for re-election in November even as he simultaneously was running for the Council — could have won his race against an unknown and unfunded challenger without spending a dime.
But just to be same he reported spending $490,685.59 — that’s right half a million dollars against a nobody.
He had so much money, he paid consultant Larry Levine $70,000 during the election cycle and consultant Lopez-Chen LLC a similar amount and consultant Nancy Dolan $132,000. He even spent nearly $60,000 mailers and tens of thousands more for accountants and office expenses, according to records.
Taken together, it is pretty clear most of that money was spent directly or indirectly through pre-payment for services for his Council campaign to crush citizen candidates with little money and political experience.
It will give you insight into how the system works — how rotten to its core it is –to see that 2JobBob gave most of it to Democratic Party groups — about $75,000 — with $40,000 more being re-gifted to other party candidates, even Compton and L.A. City Council candidates.
With the rest he gave generously to local community groups like Chambers of Commerce, a track club, a boosters club and others in the West Valley as well as a number of other non-profits around the region and state.
So you can see just how important it was for him to raise so much money by taking advantage of his role as Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and its importance to so many special interests like Indian gambling, alcohol distributors, unions, entertainment companies, engineers, farmers, grocers, lawyers and on and on, records show.
Then, there are the companies and organizations that want to keep your health care costs as high as possible: Ambulance Assn., Health Facilities PAC, Calif. Medical Assn., Psychiatric Technicians, Psychiatric PAC, Insurance Brokers, Paramedics Plus, Nurses Assn., Allergan, Lomita Health, Dental PAC, Adult Health Care Center, Baxter Healthcare, Personal Insurance Federation, Advanced Medical Care, Bayer, Lotus Blossom Community Services, Facial Surgeons, Optometrists, Chiropractors among others.
Fuentes is much the same, spending $583, 593.03 on his last Assembly campaign in 2010, much of coming from similar sources as Blumenfield, according to records.
Similarly, more than half of the money he raised went to the Democratic Party and candidates.
The scandal of political money doesn’t end there.
Large sums of money are channeled through phony organizations like consultant Jim Nygren’s Alliance for California’s Tomorrow that launder money from a variety of sources and uses much of it for attack ads to defeat legislators who have gotten on the wrong side of special interests, like Chris Norby.
why big health insurers like Aetna, Anthem Blue Cross (Wellpoint) and Blue Shield can get away with price-gouging as they do — greedy actions that drive hordes of uninsured people into public hospitals, sticking taxpayers with the bills while they reap huge profits.