California has embraced the Affordable Care Act and established a successful health care exchange that already has cut the number of uninsured residents in half, from 22 percent to 11 percent. No state in the nation has benefitted more or is better positioned to take full advantage of federal health care reforms.
To continue that progress and make the state a national model, re-elect Dave Jones as insurance commissioner.
Jones knows the industry and the public policy issues inside out, and he retains a refreshing zeal for the work after an action-packed first term. A consumer advocate, he has done everything he could to rein in health insurance premiums despite having no direct power over them.
Jones' opponent, Republican state Sen. Ted Gaines of Roseville, has run a family insurance agency for the past 30 years, so he is qualified for the office. It's his positions that are a problem.
Gaines opposed the Affordable Care Act and would be unenthusiastic at best about making it work.
He believes markets and competition should govern the insurance industry, even though laws compel people to have insurance. He opposed the 1988 ballot measure that gave the insurance commissioner power to regulate auto insurance rates, and he is against adding similar regulation of health insurance rates, as 35 other states have done.
Gaines believes it's fine if insurers want to impose exorbitant rate increases: Competitors will swoop in and offer lower rates, which will result in more choices and lower costs overall for consumers. That certainly didn't happen with car insurance, however. California had experienced more than a decade of outrageous price increases until Proposition 103 passed. Regulation has saved drivers more than $1 billion since then.
Jones supports the Affordable Care Act, but he understands the need for further reform. He urges steps to increase the supply of doctors and other medical care professionals to deal with the flood of newly insured individuals seeking regular care. He also wants to help control costs for young adults who struggle to pay health care premiums.
Jones, a Democrat, has often succeeded in bringing down proposed health insurance rate hikes by using his bully pulpit. But going back to his years as a Sacramento assemblyman, he has advocated vesting the insurance commissioner with the power of regulation. He is the prime sponsor of Proposition 45 on this fall's ballot, which would allow the commissioner to veto unjustified increases. We're still evaluating the details of the proposition, but we agree in general that regulation is needed. If this measure isn't the right one, Jones will continue pursuing the goal.
It's hard to imagine an individual state official whose work affects the daily lives of Californians more than the insurance commissioner. Dave Jones is a very good one, and he should be re-elected.