Friday, July 19, 2013

A Letter to Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner

This is a copy of a letter I sent to Dave Jones, the Insurance Commissioner for the State of California:

Dave Jones

Insurance Commissioner
California Department of Insurance

Dear Dave:

I heard on the news this morning that Anthem has decided to pull out of the small business portion of the upcoming health exchange, "Covered California," and as such, will not be part of the state-run exchange under the legislation known as "ObamaCare." In reading through articles on this topic, it appears that quite a number of insurance companies have opted out of one part of the plan or another. Added to that, several articles have pointed out that the cost of individual plans under the new exchange will actually be priced higher than before. For myself, what little has been released already shows that a plan for which I would be eligible would cost 22.5% more than that same plan costs today. Since I cannot afford the current price, there is no way that I will be able to afford the increased price.

My question to you is, why are you allowing this? We elected you to this office to protect us from the insurance companies that would rip us off, yet you seem to be disinterested in our needs. I would suggest that you implement the following regulations for the new exchanges:

First, any insurance company that offers health insurance and sells any insurance in California must sell on the exchange. This would include both individual and group plans. The only insurance companies that can opt out are those that do not write these policies anywhere. Otherwise, they must offer the plans or leave the state. I seriously doubt that any will leave.

Second, no insurance company can opt out of selling any lines within the state that they offer in other states. This means that if Aetna (as an example) wants to sell any insurance in California, it must continue to offer individual plans here as well. If it stops offering individual lines altogether, then it can stop selling them in California. If it writes individual insurance in any state, it must write it here. (While not actually part of this topic, this would also mean that earthquake insurance must be offered here by any carrier who writes it outside of the state. That would drive down rates considerably.)

Third, your office should do a thorough check of prices for policies on both individual and group levels and come up with an average rate per plan. That rate should be discounted by 40% and that should be the cap of any plan in the exchange. While we commonly refer to this as "ObamaCare" the actual name is the "Affordable Care Act." Insurance rates are entirely too high, which is the main reason why so many of us are without health insurance. The Act mandates that these rates be affordable and it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that they are. Thus far, the state has done a very bad job of this, since most of the rates that have been presented are higher than before.

Dave, we need your help. And you need to do your job. Stand up to the insurance companies. That's what we pay you for.


Mr. Patt Gavin

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jury Duty

It seems whenever there is a high-profile legal case, the verdict that comes back is never the one that most people would have reached.  One has to wonder, then, what kinds of people we have serving on jury duty in this country.  To correct this problem, I would like to suggest the following:

Since a trial by jury is guaranteed to all Americans it seems that as nearly all Americans as possible should be allowed the opportunity to serve on a jury.  What holds many people back is the fact that they can't afford to take the time off from work.  To alleviate this, we need legislation that states that every employer must pay their employees for jury duty.  The employee would receive the same salary as if they were at work.  The employer would get this money back in a refund on their income taxes.  For employers with less than 100 employees, the jury duty would be capped at two weeks.  For employers with employees from 100 to 499 would be capped at three weeks and employers with 500 or more employees would be unlimited.

Courts today pay jurors a very small sum of money.  This would be stopped for all jurors who are employed, as they would continue to be paid by their employers.  Only the unemployed would receive payment from the courts for their jury service.

Next comes jury selection.  The courts should broaden their pool by using not only voter registration as a means of identifying jurors but also drivers licenses, cell phone contracts, cable television contracts, medical insurance, vehicle insurance, etc.  All of these companies would be required to submit to the local courts a listing of names, addresses and social security numbers.  The courts would then cross-reference the information and use this as their pool for summoning jurors.  By increasing the pool, it would be easy to then limit service to no more than once in a three year period.

Finally, we need to expedite the trial system.  The current practice of attempting to stack a jury in one's favor must be eliminated.  When a case is going to trial, 35 names should be pulled and those people should appear in the courtroom.  The judge will explain the trial and the length of time it will be scheduled to take.  If the case goes longer than two weeks, only those jurors who are paid beyond two weeks will be required to stay.  All others will be excused.  From the remaining jurors, the plaintiff, defendent, attorneys and witnesses will be named.  If anyone in the prospective juror pool knows any of these people, they will be excused.

From the remaining jurors, 12 names will be pulled, along with two alternates.  This will be the jury and the trial will begin.  The attorneys will not be allowed to question any jurors ahead of time.  This would eliminate much of the backlog at courthouses throughout this country.

We need this kind of common sense jury reform to ensure that all Americans are entitled to a trial by jury with a competent group of men and women sitting in judgment.