INSURANCE COMMISSIONER JONES RUNS ON RECORD OF PROTECTING CONSUMERS FROM INSURERS, VS. CHALLENGER GAINES, AN INSURANCE BROKER

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Third candidate wants universal healthcare and elimination of insurance companies

By Stevon Marshall

May 31, 2014 (Sacramento)--All three candidates in the running to become California’s next insurance commissioner in the June 3rd primary election call themselves consumer crusaders. Yet where do the similarities end and where does the actuality of their plans begin? The three candidates are incumbent Dave Jones, Ted Gaines, and Nathalie Hrizi.

The race pits the incument, with a track record of battling insurance companies on behalf of consumers, against an insurance broker seeking to reduce regulation of the insurance industry and a socialist who wants to eliminate insurance companies altogether and get universal healthcare for all Californians.

Democrat and current Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a Sacramento lawyer and former legislator, eagerly exercises his authority to regulate all types of casualty insurance, which also includes property and auto coverage.  He pushed a ballot initiative through the Legislature that if approved by consumers, would prevent health insurance companies from raising premium rates to consumers unless the Insurance Commissioner approves the proposed rate hikes. Health insurers would be required to provide justification for any proposed rate increase, just as vehicle and home insurance companies must already do.

As soon as Jones entered office after winning election in 2010, he began taking action to protect consumers by signing an emergency regulation requiring health insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on health care, rather on administrative costs or pocketing huge profits.

“I have been a fair and balanced regulator, as I promised I’d be, “ Jones said. “I take companies to task when they are violating the law, but I also recognize at the end of the day that we need active and vibrant insurance companies and markets.”

Throughout his career Jones has secured crucial victories for consumers, from issuing a gender non-discrimination regulation to ensure that everyone has the right to access coverage for medically necessary care regardless of their gender identity, to creating the first in the nation insurance diversity program to increase insurance company procurement from women, minority and veteran owned businesses, even saving policyholders more than $1.4 billion in premiums by preventing excessive rates for auto, homeowners and other property and casualty insurance

The second candidate is Republican Ted Gaines, a state senator and an insurance broker from the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin. Gaines wants to reduce regulation of the insurance industry and insert more competition in the insurance markets.

Gaines is currently in the process of suing Covered California (the health exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act in California) due to over 900,000 Californians having had their healthcare being cancelled, his website indicates. He says someone needs to stand up and fight for the hardworking Californians.

Gaines believes that small businesses are keys to a thriving California and a healthy middle-class, and says he will fight to make California a better place for business. He says more competition would mean better rates for consumers.  He complains of long waits for insurance companies to have products or services approved by the Department of Insurance.  He also pledges to reduce fraud by insurers, which leaves everyone paying the price. He cites studies indicating fraud may be the reason why auto insurance has risen ten percent.

Gaines has attacked Jones in a Twitter rant and an advertisement titled “Do Nothing Dave.”  He contends that Jones “ignored the invitation to join my lawsuit against Covered California and instead chose to do nothing.”

Lastly the third candidate, who’s running on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket and is a self-proclaimed socialist, is Nathalie Hrizi, a San Francisco teacher and community activist.  According to her website, as a single mother she understand the importance of healthcare.

The insurance market in California alone is a $123 billion business. Her goal is to create a government run, single-payer health insurance program that would provide free coverage for all Californians. She wants to annihilate for-profit insurance programs and create publicly owned agencies to sell low-cost auto and property insurance as well. A single-payer program would guarantee health care for all, while the state pays for all the medical bills  A bill that would have created exactly that – healthcare for all Californians—previously failed passage in the state legislature by just two votes.

Hrizi’s main hope is securing the opportunity to make sure that everyone has access to healthcare regardless of their ability to pay.  She would provide universal single-payer healthcare even to immigrants working for low wages. Her stance is that quality healthcare should be a right and not a commodity to make insurance companies and other healthcare organizations even richer.

Even though Hrizi has a populist message, her lack of financial backing has many are already speculating that the she’s going to be eliminated in the state’s “top-two” primary election format.

So far, the Jones-Gaines matchup is shaping up to be not much of a contest — at least until the general election. But it's still early; the race might heat up by October.

According to Maplight.org,an elections and campaign finance website, Jones has raised $1.4 million in contributions so far, and Gaines has collected only $28,500.

Additionally, Jones and the Democrats have an edge in voter registration. Democrats make up 43.48% of current California registered voters. Republicans lag behind with 28.55%. No preferences account for 21.06%, and other parties 6.91%.