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Hey, Californians!  Now that it's past prime time in the East and Central zones and we're (closer to) alone here, I have to talk to you.

I don't mean this to sound kinky -- you can leave your clothes on and all that -- but I need you to face away from me, bend over, and brace yourselves, because I am going to kick you in your collective butt.

Wait!  Where are you going?  Come back!

OK, I didn't mean to startle you.  That was a metaphor.  Just come back.  You don't have to turn around.  Look, I'm taking off my shoes.  I won't really kick you.

I just want to talk to you about your health insurance premiums.  They may start skyrocketing because we did not take action -- pretty much tomorrow or never.

It's health insurance, OK?  Geez.  I wasn't going to actually do it.  Follow me below the drawing of an inflamed pancreas for which you may no longer be able to afford treatment.

It's like this: I wrote a diary this morning asking people to call the six Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee to ask them to vote for A.B. 52, the bill that gives the state's Insurance Commissioner the ability to block unreasonable hikes in health insurance premiums.

24 views.  As of now, 24 people read it.  I haven't gotten under 25 views since my ill-fated effort to set up an NCAA Tournament pool here -- to which I will, if you don't mind, not link.

Hello?  Skyrocketing health insurance rates?  Gotta act by tomorrow to keep alive the chance to regulate them?  Hello?  Anyone interested?

At least I'm not alone -- jpmassar wrote his own excellent diary on the subject as well.  It got 20 comments -- 10 from him, 5 from me.  And unlike me, he had a very straightforward title!  Still, only 88 views.

Do we need to review the basics?  Here, let's let Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones do it:

From Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones:
Dear Friends:

One of the most important bills of the year is awaiting a vote in the Senate.  AB 52 (Feuer and Huffman) gives the Insurance Commissioner the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases before they go into effect.  Due to the intense lobbying of the insurance industry, each vote has been a close one and we expect the same with the next vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The insurance industry is doing everything in its power to prevent this bill from becoming law.  My office gets calls every day from Californians who cannot afford health insurance premium increases. Senators, whose votes will determine the fate of AB 52, need to hear from you.

Insurance regulators in 34 other states and the District of Columbia already have the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes. We know this approach works. Thanks to the voter approved Proposition 103, California's Insurance Commissioners have been able to reject excessive auto and homeowners' insurance rates since 1988, saving consumers and businesses tens of billions of dollars. It's well past the time to extend the same authority to reject excessive rate hikes to health insurance.

Many of you have been contacting Assemblymembers and Senators throughout the year asking them to vote for AB 52.  Thanks to you, the bill passed the Assembly despite the intense lobbying efforts by the health insurance industry. Thanks to more calls and emails from supporters, AB 52 then passed through the Senate Health Committee.

We expect a vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, August 25th.  Please start calling the Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee TODAY and ask them to vote for AB 52.

The following is a list of the Senate Appropriations Committee members and their Capitol Office telephone numbers:

Senator Christine Kehoe (Chair) -- (916) 651-4039
Senator Elaine Alquist -- (916) 651-4013
Senator Ted W. Lieu -- (916) 651-4028
Senator Fran Pavley -- (916) 651-4023
Senator Curren Price -- (916) 651-4026
Senator Darrell Steinberg -- (916) 651-4006

Thank you for all of your help. You really are making a difference.


Is it clear what we need to do?  Is it clear that we need to do it TOMORROW?

I'll tell you one thing -- it's clear to the health insurers who are trying to block it.  It had damn well better be clear to us as well.

P.S.  One last part of the message: we don't want it weakened by amendments.

11:13 PM PT: I left for a while after this diary had been up a while, in deep despond -- OK, actually my wife and I were watching Alphas and Euerka on SyFy, but the despond makes for a better story -- and when I came back there were a bunch of great comments.  You guys rock!  See you in the morning, on the phones!

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 11:18 AM PT: For this diary, rather than one of jpmassar's on the topic, to have made and stayed on the Rec List just shows how wonderfully weird (by which I don't mean Romney/Axelrod "weird") this site can be.  Thanks for making the calls.  Please note that:

(1) references to "tomorrow" in the diary refer to "TODAY";

(2) when you call Ted Lieu and the person wants to know where you are from, you should mention the magic "strike fear in his heart due to redistricting" words "I know people in:" "Santa Monica," "Hollywood," and "Beverly Hills" (i.e., you're someone who is "paying attention"); and

(3) "despond" really is a word, but I was kidding about it.

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 11:30 AM PT: I just asked a smart and circumspect staffer in Kehoe's office if Kehoe's office could address the concern based on the comment from Lieu's office that the bill might not come off of the suspense calendar.  He was neither encouraging nor discouraging, explaining why a bill in general might remain on the suspense calendar (including the possibility of the sponsor changing it into a 2-year bill; someone more knowledgeable may want to explain that one) -- and I was left more discouraged than encouraged.

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 11:41 AM PT: Alquist's office was positive but circumspect.

Lieu's office, when asked whether the bill would be coming off of suspension, said that the author (Asmb. Feuer) would probably be the one to know, that legislators often don't take stands on bills until they see the final language, and that in many cases there are amendments that could change the bill, etc.  I told him that if the bill doesn't go forward, that any contributions that Sen. Lieu gets from the health insurance industry between now and 2014 will hang like a millstone around his neck, and I mentioned the magic words "Santa Monica," "Hollywood," and "Beverly Hills" as having lots of voters that would be keeping track of this very significant vote.  (Just in case anyone wants to know how it's done, that's how.)

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM PT: Sen. Pavley's office says that she has not been asked to be part of any meeting this afternoon and she has no plans to attend one.  So if there is a strategy meeting coming out, that's interesting.

Sen. Price's phone was being staffed by someone who is just filling in.

Sen. Steinberg's phone is being staffed by a woman who knows her stuff.  She has not heard that the bill is not likely to come off of suspension (sorry for the double-negative); she says that Steinberg has not supported any amendments to it; and she has suggesting that if I want to know the status of either of the above I should call Asmb. Feuer's office.  I'm going to get the number now.

Wed Aug 24, 2011 at  1:44 PM PT: The new diary I've linked here actually matters much more than the one you're reading.

Originally posted to Doane Spills on Tue Aug 23, 2011 at 08:09 PM PDT.

Also republished by Healthcare Reform - We've Only Just Begun, California politics, and Dailykos Kossacks For Action.

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