An important package of strong consumer protection bills, sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, passed through their respective houses of the Legislature, clearing a major hurdle toward passage. Jones stated in his recent press release:
“When I took office in January, I vowed we would work to strengthen our consumer protection laws,” said Commissioner Jones. “I applaud the authors of the bills I am sponsoring, which protect the rights of consumers and expand the opportunity to purchase and keep insurance. I will continue to work toward ensuring these important pieces of legislation win final passage and become law in order to protect the consumers, vulnerable seniors, and hard-working families of this state.”
The package of Assembly bills includes:
AB 52, which would give the Insurance Commissioner the power to reject excessive health insurance rate increases by requiring health plans and insurers to seek approval from state regulators prior to raising health care premiums, copayments, or deductibles, passed on a vote of 44-27. The bill is jointly authored by Assembly Judiciary Chair Mike Feuer and Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee Chair Jared Huffman and now moves to the Senate.
AB 315, which would incorporate provisions of the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Protection Act into California law relating to the business and taxation practices of surplus lines of insurance, passed on a vote of 78-0. The bill is authored by Assembly Insurance Committee Chair Jose Solorio and now moves to the Senate Insurance Committee. The bill is an urgency measure and must be enacted by July 21, 2011, to avert federal preemption of California’s surplus lines of activities.
AB 624, which would extend the sunset date to January 1, 2017 on an on-going tax credit program for insurance companies, corporations, and other taxpayers that invest in Community Development Financial Institutions certified by the Department of Insurance’s California Organized Investment Network, passed on a vote of 75-2. The bill is authored by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and now moves to the Senate.
AB 689, which would require insurance producers and insurers selling annuities to have reasonable grounds to believe their recommendations are suitable for seniors and consumers and to adopt a comprehensive regulatory process at the Department of Insurance to enforce this new standard, passed on a vote of 79-0. The bill is authored by Assembly Budget Committee Chair Bob Blumenfield and now moves to the Senate Insurance Committee.
AB 793, which would prohibit unscrupulous insurance professionals from participating with, employing, or making referrals to an individual involved in the sale of reverse mortgages with the sole purpose of selling insurance policies and annuities in order to provide further financial protection to seniors, passed on a vote of 70-0. The bill is authored by Assembly Banking and Finance Committee Chair Mike Eng and now moves to the Senate Insurance Committee.
AB 999, which would protect consumers from excessive premium rate volatility that has characterized the long-term care insurance market by modifying the long-term insurance premium rate development process, passed on a vote of 42-33. The bill is authored by Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee Chair Mariko Yamada and now moves to the Senate.
AB1416, which is the annual omnibus bill for the Department of Insurance and makes minor and technical changes to various code sections, passed on a vote of 75-0. The bill is authored by the Assembly Insurance Committee and now moves to the Senate.
The package of Senate bills includes:
SB 51, which would implement broader protections for California consumers in the large group, small group, and individual markets by conforming California law to the federal medical loss ratio and rebate requirements as well as to the federal prohibitions against annual and lifetime dollar limitations on essential health benefits, passed on a vote of 25-15. The bill is authored by Senator Elaine Alquist and now moves to the Assembly.
SB 599, which would protect consumers from being unwittingly enrolled in life insurance “retained asset accounts” by ensuring that beneficiaries have an opportunity to decide how they want their life insurance proceeds paid, passed on a vote of 37-1. The bill is authored by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Christine Kehoe and now moves to the Assembly.
SB 621, which would prohibit disability insurance policies from containing discretionary clauses that give discretionary authority to insurers to determine eligibility for benefits or coverage insofar that these clauses give so much power to insurance companies that they can easily justify their denial of benefits in court even when the medical evidence overwhelmingly supports the case of the disabled policyholder, passed on a vote of 37-0. The bill is authored by Senate Insurance Committee Chair Ron Calderon and now moves to the Assembly Insurance Committee.
SB 684, which would provide another level of protection for businesses by making workers’ compensation policies more transparent, requiring that these policies be subject to California law, and prohibiting the practice of unfiled collateral agreements often used by insurers to gain the advantage in arbitrations of disputes, passed on a vote of 23-13. The bill is authored by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and now moves to the Assembly Insurance Committee.
SB 712, which would incorporate the essential elements of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Model Law relating to Property and Casualty Actuarial Opinion into California law to ensure that the Department of Insurance retains its NAIC accreditation status, passed on a vote of 39-0. The bill is authored by the Senate Insurance Committee and now moves to the Assembly.