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California Assembly Passes Health Rate Bill

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Golden State insurers are fighting a measure that would give regulators control over medical insurance price increases.

Members of the California Assembly voted 42-33 Thursday to pass Assembly Bill 1554, a bill introduced by Assemblymember Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, Calif., that would require health insurers to justify proposed rate increases.

The bill would require insurance regulators to give members of the public a chance to comment on the proposed increases.

The bill also would prevent regulators from approving “unfair or excessive” rates, co-payments or deductibles.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee approved the bill by a 12-5 vote earlier this week.

Insurance groups and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, have vigorously opposed the bill.

Many consumer groups and other groups have supported the bill.

“It is particularly important to have these curbs on spiraling insurance premiums if either employers or individuals are required to buy health insurance,” says Jerry Flanagan, health policy director at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, Santa Monica, Calif., one of the groups backing the bill.