A new poll shows 69% of California voters back Proposition 45, a November ballot measure giving the insurance commissioner the power to stop excessive health-insurance rate increases.
The Field Poll released Wednesday indicates broad support statewide for Proposition 45 ahead of what's expected to be a costly and contentious battle between consumer groups and health insurers.
Overall, 69% of registered voters said they favored the health-rate regulation measure while 16% opposed it and 15% were undecided heading into the Nov. 4 election.
The poll found that a majority of registered Democrats and Republicans in the state supported Proposition 45.
Among Democrats, 75% of those surveyed offered support while 58% of Republicans also favored it.
The Field Poll surveyed 1,535 registered voters in June and July. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog have led the push for Proposition 45.
Under current law, state regulators cannot deny rate increases they deem unreasonable or excessive. The ballot measure would grant that authority to the insurance commissioner and establish a process for outside groups to challenge rate filings.
Jones has pointed out that more than 30 other states already have this rate-regulation authority and it's essential to help fulfill the goals of the Affordable Care Act.
Health insurers, led by Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente, have already contributed millions of dollars to defeat Proposition 45.
Insurers and other opponents say it will create another unnecessary bureaucracy and undermine the work of the state-run insurance exchange, Covered California.
Last month, Covered California announced that rates for individual insurance in the state marketplace were going up 4.2%, on average, next year.
"Proposition 45 would derail California's successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act by disrupting Covered California," said Dr. Marty Gallegos, senior vice president of the Hospital Assn. of Southern California.
Consumer Watchdog has criticized Covered California for being too cozy with the state's largest health insurers and letting them reap huge profits at the expense of patients.
"Proposition 45 will give beleaguered Californians relief from the merciless rate hikes health insurers are currently free to impose, while still providing fair industry profits," said Rob Leonard, a spokesman for Consumer Watchdog.
Another health-related initiative garnered slightly less support in the Field Poll.
Proposition 46 would raise the state's $250,000 limit on medical-malpractice awards and require random drug testing of doctors.
The poll found 58% of voters were in support and 30% opposed it. Twelve percent said they were undecided.