HMO REGULATION: Insurance Commissioner Candidates Speak Out
State Insurance Commissioner candidates struggling for recognition are placing managed care regulation on their platforms, the Los Angeles Times reports. Incumbent Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quakenbush (R), a "heavy reelection favorite," is promoting himself as "a protector of consumer interests" who has enforced "$30 million in regulatory fines against insurers" while in office. "From the beginning," candidate and Marin County Supervisor Hal Brown has pushed for a bigger role that would allow the insurance commissioner to "regulate HMOs in California." He said, "One half of the state's population has HMO coverage. They're being denied care. They're being given cheap prescription drugs. Their hospital stays are severely limited. Their doctors are not battling for them." Brown says that while "he would fight to change all this," nonetheless, "he acknowledges that a bigger role for the insurance commissioner would require legislative action," which the Legislature is reluctant to perform. Meanwhile, the third candidate, State Assemblywoman Diane Martinez (D-Monterey Park) is "saying that she would work to guarantee" a patients' doctor choice, medically necessary treatment and emergency care coverage.
Coming Down On Quackenbush
The Times notes that Brown and Martinez, while "campaigning as insurance reformers ... accuse Quackenbush of being beholden to the industry and using his rate-approval authority to keep rates too high." Brown "speaks caustically about Quackenbush's claims that he has been tough on the insurance companies, taking strong reinforcement action and lowering rates." He said, "I don't think the media or the public is going to buy it when he says he's not with the insurers. He's given away everything to the insurance companies. What else does he have to give?" The most recent Times poll found that "Quackenbush led with 41% of the vote," while "Martinez and Brown had 18% and 12%, respectively, among likely voters" (Reich, 5/28).