Kaiser, Blue Shield contribute $28 million to defeat rate-regulation initiative

Kaiser Permanente and Blue Shield of California have contributed $23.8 million to defeat a November ballot initiative that would allow California’s insurance commissioner to deny health premium increases seen as excessive.

The funding went to Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, a lobbying group backed by insurers, the California Medical Association, the California Hospital Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, the Bay Area Council and many other medical associations, business groups and even a few labor entities.

Oakland-based Kaiser ponied up more than $14 million and San Francisco-based Blue Shied more than $9.5 million.

Both Kaiser and Blue Shield directed the Business Times to the industry coalition that’s trying to defeat the measure, backed by the trial attorney-backed Consumer Watchdog group and supported by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Consumer Watchdog and a passel of lawyers and law firms have contributed close to $2 million to boost the measure, according to the Secretary of State’s web site listing campaign contributions.

The initiative would give Jones more control over rates in the individual and small group markets.

The rate-regulation initiative doesn’t yet have a ballot number or official name, said Robin Swanson, a spokeswoman for the coalition. It has now raised more than $36 million to defeat the rate-regulation initiative, including $12.5 million contributed last year by WellPoint Inc. and its Anthem Blue Cross of California subsidiary. The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog first reported the latest contributions.

Earlier, Kaiser, Anthem, Blue Shield, Health Net, the California Association of Health Plans and United Healthcare chipped in more than $900,000 to get their side’s campaign rolling, according to an April 14 report by California Healthline, which is published by the California HealthCare Foundation.

Half of the latest funding from Kaiser and Blue Shield came in the form of loans to the coalition’s campaign.

Consumer Watchdog, in contrast, has about $150,000 on hand, Capitol Alert reported Monday.

Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog’s president and a longtime gadfly of the state’s insurers and health care providers, has predicted that insurers would raise between $50 million and $100 million to defeat the measure.

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