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Blue Shield criticized for Levi’s Stadium skybox

The campaign for a ballot measure to let the state insurance commissioner veto health insurance rate hikes is pointing to Blue Shield of California’s pricey luxury skybox at the new Levis’s Stadium as a sign that insurers’ spending is out of control.

Levi's Stadium luxury suiteConsumer Watchdog and the Yes on 45 campaign sent a letter Tuesday to California Attorney General Kamala Harris urging her to investigate “Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status” and crack down on its spending.

The letter cites a San Francisco Chronicle article which said suites of the type that Blue Shield got at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home are “priced at between $250,000 and $400,000 a year and require a 10- or 20-year commitment. That puts the price at anywhere from $2.5 million to $8 million.”

“We urge you to investigate Blue Shield’s abuse of its non-profit status and use your authority to impose a ‘charitable trust’ on Blue Shield’s assets and block any additional wasteful spending that robs taxpayers and average California patients of their financial health,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court wrote to Harris.

Proposition 45 “will ensure that companies like Blue Shield are not increasing premium charges to patients to fund excessive executive compensation, lavish entertainment and excessive reserves,” Court wrote. “Under current law, the California Department of Insurance does not yet have the authority to block excessive rate increases that funded Blue Shield’s skybox. Before November, only you have the power to protect California taxpayers.”

Neither the No on Prop 45 campaign, known as Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs, nor Blue Shield of California answered e-mails seeking comment Tuesday. Blue Shield spokesman Sean Barry told the Chronicle over the weekend that the luxury box’s primary purpose “is to interact social with some of our larger membership groups,” and it won’t be available to executives for “their personal use.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014
Under: 2014 general, ballot measures | 2 Comments »

Complaint filed about ‘Six Californias’ petitions

The “OneCalifornia” committee formed to oppose venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” ballot measure filed a complaint with Secretary of State Debra Bowen on Thursday requesting a voter-fraud investigation.

The letter included a copy of the blog item I posted Tuesday, which detailed voters hundreds of miles apart recounting how paid petition circulators told strikingly similar falsehoods about the Six Californias petition’s purpose. Lying to voters in order to get them to sign a ballot-measure petition is a misdemeanor.

“To ensure the integrity of the state initiative process is not tarnished by criminal behavior, we request an immediate investigation into these disturbing reports of voter fraud during circulation of the Six Californias initiative,” wrote Richard Miadich, attorney for the One California committee.

A Six Californias spokesman didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

Draper, 56, of Atherton, who in the past has given generously to Republican causes, filed about 1.3 million petition signatures Tuesday in order to qualify the measure for the November 2016 ballot. County registrars and Bowen’s office must verify that at least 807,615 of those signatures are valid and from registered California voters.

OneCalifornia spokesman Steve Maviglio, a veteran Democratic strategist, said Thursday that “it’s not surprising that high jinx were involved in trying to get voters to sign the petition for this unthoughtful measure, even when signature gatherers were getting paid $3 for each signature they received.

“We’ve been flooded with emails and Tweets who are echoing what was reported,” Maviglio said. “These allegations are serious and need to be thoroughly investigated by the Secretary of State.”

Posted on Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Debra Bowen, Secretary of State | No Comments »

Three voters claim ‘Six Californias’ petition fraud

A few voters from different parts of California complain that paid signature gatherers for a ballot measure to split the Golden State into six pieces lied to them, claiming the measure did the exact opposite of what it really does.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper submitted signatures Tuesday to qualify his “Six Californias” measure for the November 16 ballot. Stories about this inspired several voters to reach out with strikingly similar tales of alleged fraud.

signing a petitionThe company Draper paid to circulate his petitions has been accused of skullduggery in signature-gathering campaigns from coast to coast. That company’s owner said Tuesday these are the first complaints he has heard about this campaign, they’re insignificant in the context of about 1.3 million signatures gathered, and past allegations were trumped up by political foes.

Illijana Asara, 65, of Humboldt County, sent an email Tuesday detailing what she believed to be election fraud.

“Within the last two weeks, I was approached in front of the Dollar Store in Valley West shopping center in Arcata, CA, by a young man with a petition who suggested that if I signed the petition, I would be opposing the Attorney General of California’s intention to split the state into six states,” Asara wrote.

“I told him that I knew that there were people pushing this idea, but that it wasn’t the Attorney General and I didn’t sign the petition. As soon as I said that, he walked away,” she said. “There were lots of people signing, so it could be that a lot of people bought his line. I don’t know if this has happened elsewhere, but since there is so little support for this notion, it may have.”

Another Californian, who uses the Yahoo! name Xrich, recounted a similar story in a comment posted to a news story about the measure.

“I was approached by a campaigner at Walmart who tried to get me to sign the petition,” Xrich wrote. “The canvasser said the petition was to oppose the division of California but I read it and said the proposal was in support of dividing California. … I told him to stuff it, but I bet a lot of people signed it thinking they were opposing, not supporting the division of California.”

Deborah Hernandez, 40, of Orange County, said Tuesday that this is “exactly describing what happened to me.” She said she was outside a Target store in Aliso Viejo about a month ago when a signature-gatherer approached her with the same story about the Six Californias measure, and also misrepresented the content of another measure dealing with criminal penalties.

“I read them both … and I said to him, you’re completely misrepresenting what these things are about,” she said. “Then he proceeded to tell me I must not know how to read and understand these petitions correctly.”

She promptly informed him of her degree in literature from UC-Irvine: “I have excellent reading comprehension.”

“I got really mad, I got into it with him,” Hernandez said. “I told him, you can just stand out here lying to people.”

Indeed, California Elections Code 18600 says anyone who circulates a ballot-measure petition and “intentionally misrepresents or intentionally makes any false statement concerning the contents, purport or effect of the petition” when asking someone to sign is committing a misdemeanor.

Lots more, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 15th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 21 Comments »

‘Six Californias’ to submit signatures Tuesday

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper will submit petition signatures Tuesday to place his Six Californias measure – a plan to split the Golden State six ways – on the November 2016 ballot.

Tim DraperDraper will hold a news conference Tuesday morning before delivering the first batch of signatures to the Sacramento County Registration and Elections office. So far, Draper is the only contributor to the measure: He has put up $4.9 million of his own money to get this far.

“California needs a reboot,” says a news release issued Monday. “Six Californias is our opportunity to solve the many problems we face today. Six Californias gives us an opportunity to create a better future for all 38 million of us. Six states that are more representative and accountable. Six states that embrace innovation and strive to improve the lives of residents. With Six Californias we can refresh our government. California is a beautiful place to live. Let’s make it a great place to thrive.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports Draper’s plan to split California – now 14th among the 50 states in per capita income – would create both the nation’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and its poorest (Central California).

“This is a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy, and money that will hurt the California brand, our ability to attract business and jobs, and move our state forward together,” said Steve Maviglio, spokesman for the OneCalifornia committee created to oppose Draper’s effort. “It’s unfortunate that Mr. Draper is putting his millions into this effort to split up our state rather than help us face our challenges.”

Posted on Monday, July 14th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 4 Comments »

Dems gather in Oakland to mull ballot measures

The California Democratic Party’s Executive Board convenes this weekend in Oakland, where it will decide whether to endorse the propositions – including two costly, controversial ones – on November’s ballot.

Proposition 45 would give the state insurance commissioner the authority to reject health-insurance premium hikes, and Proposition 46 would raise the $250,000 cap on punitive medical-malpractice damages. Opponents already have anted up tens of millions to fight the measures, and so pressure will be high as party delegates gather at Oakland’s Marriott convention center.

The votes are scheduled for Sunday. But the agenda includes various caucus and committee meetings Friday and Saturday, with speakers and visitors such as Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, a candidate for state controller now embroiled in rival John Perez’ recount; state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys, a candidate for secretary of state; and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, now seeking a second term.

Posted on Friday, July 11th, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Democratic Party, Democratic politics | No Comments »

Danville couple’s MICRA measure will be on ballot

A measure that would raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence awards and force doctors to check a statewide database before prescribing narcotic drugs, put forth by a Danville couple whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, has qualified for November’s ballot.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office said the measure needed at least 555,236 projected valid signatures to qualify by random sampling, and it exceeded that threshold Thursday. Bob and Carmen Pack had announced in March that they had submitted 840,000 signatures.

“The patient safety protections in this ballot measure will save lives and protect families from dangerous, impaired and drug dealing doctors,” Bob Pack said in an statement issued Thursday. “Today, California voters have taken the first step in making sure that more families like mine don’t have to experience the pain of losing a child due to dangerous medicine. No family should suffer because a doctor recklessly prescribes pills to an addict, is a substance abuser, or commits repeated acts of medical negligence.”

The measure would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery – now fixed at $250,000 – for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

The measure is supported by trial attorneys, but is staunchly opposed by medical and business groups.

“We always knew this flawed measure was bad for the pocketbooks of everyday Californians, but the more they read the fine print, the more they realize it’s equally bad for their personal privacy,” Jim DeBoo, manager of the campaign against the measure, said in a statement issued Thursday. “If this measure passes, it will mandate a database that isn’t properly working and open the privacy floodgates to the sensitive personal medical data of millions of Californians with no increased security safeguards or funding. It’s a hacker’s dream – and a privacy nightmare.”

Opponents had about $31.9 million cash on hand as of March 31, while supporters had about $42,000.

Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 24 Comments »

Signatures sent in for Medi-Cal funding measure

Health care providers and community groups have gathered and are submitting 1.3 million signatures to put a measure on November’s ballot that they say will provide stable funding for health care for children and, through Medi-Cal, for seniors and low-income residents.

“California voters will get the chance this fall to strengthen this critically important law, and improve access to quality affordable medical care for those who need it most,” California Hospital Association President and CEO C. Duane Dauner said in a news release.

The Medi-Cal Funding and Accountability Act of 2014 “will ensure California receives ongoing access to approximately $3 billion annually in federal matching funds,” Dauner said. “This is California’s fair share, money that would otherwise be left on the table in Washington, D.C.”

California’s hospitals for the past several years have taxed themselves to get access to the federal funds, but the budget-crunched state at times has diverted some of that money to its general fund. Last year’s SB 239, passed by the Legislature without any opposing votes and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, extended this fee through 2017 and specified how the money could be spent.

This measure would make that law permanent, and would require that “any changes in the program or to how the money is spent would have to be approved by voters first,” Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, noted in the release.

Patients aren’t assessed any fees, and there are no new or increased taxes.

“We don’t have a single voice of opposition – this is a win-win for everybody… and it doesn’t cost a dime to California taxpayers,” said Anne McLeod, the California Hospital Association’s senior vice president of health policy.

The money must be spent to provide health care services to children and, through Medi-Cal, to elderly and low-income Californians. Without the federal funds, money would have to come from privately insured patients; the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office finds the measure would save state taxpayers $500 million for children’s health coverage starting in 2016-17, growing to more than $1 billion per year by 2019-20.

Dauner said people with private insurance shouldn’t face higher rates to subsidize unpaid Medi-Cal bills if federal money is available to cover the cost. “The Act is a common-sense answer to helping people provide health care to those who need it most, at great benefit to California taxpayers.”

Posted on Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Under: ballot measures, state budget | No Comments »

OK, Tim Draper is serious about ‘Six Californias’

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper has put another $1.2 million into his “Six Californias” proposed ballot measure to split the Golden State half a dozen ways, an idea so far out there that some have wondered whether it’s a publicity stunt, a subtle satire on the initiative process, or a mid-life crisis.

The Secretary of State’s office received notice of the contribution on the same day that a “One California” committee was rolled out to oppose Draper’s plan. So, game on!

Draper had put an initial $750,000 into his effort early last month, so his running total so far is $1.95 million; no other donor has given the campaign significant money. Draper has until July 18 to submit signatures from at least 807,615 registered voters in order to qualify the measure for November’s ballot.

Posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 4 Comments »

‘OneCalifornia’ formed to oppose ‘Six Californias’

A bipartisan committee has been organized to oppose a Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” campaign to split the Golden State into six states.

It’s called “OneCalifornia.” (Of course it is.)

“Every day this measure marches its way toward the ballot, it damages the California brand as the nation’s economic powerhouse,” OneCalifornia co-foudner Joe Rodota, CEO of Forward Observer and former cabinet secretary to Gov. Pete Wilson, said in a news release issued Wednesday morning. “It has negative implications that could cost California’s businesses and taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.”

Draper’s “Six Californias” has not yet qualified for November’s ballot; Draper insists it’s for real, and says he intends to submit nearly 800,000 signatures soon to accomplish that. So far, he’s the campaign’s only significant donor, but the $750,000 he has given it so far won’t go very far. Opponents are taking nothing for granted, however.

“This measure deserves to die a quick death,” OneCalifornia co-founder Steven Maviglio, a veteran Democratic communications and public affairs operative, said in the news release. “We’re calling in the cavalry now to make sure it does.”

“No one would be taking this proposal remotely seriously if there wasn’t a billionaire with unlimited check writing abilities behind it,” Maviglio said. “Hopefully Tim Draper is a smart enough businessman not to pour more money into a folly that damages our state’s image in the world economy – and which he admits is opposed by his fellow Silicon Valley residents.”

The OneCalifornia committee will announce co-chairs and other opposition efforts in the weeks ahead, the release vowed.

Spokeswoman Anna Morris said Wednesday morning she was seeking Draper’s comment. (Ed.note — see update below.)

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports Draper’s plan to split California – now 12th among the 50 states in per capita income – would create both the nation’s richest state (Silicon Valley) and its poorest (Central California). And Rodota last month said more than two-thirds of the University of California’s students might have to pay out-of-state tuition to attend campuses in other Californias.

Rodota noted Wednesday that Draper’s plan also might have many California businesses suddenly filing multiple state tax returns if they have operations and employees spread across several of the new states. Documenting and dividing the assets and liabilities of California into six pieces would cost billions of dollars and take decades, he said.

“That would be the greatest single misuse of time and money in the history of California,” Rodota said.

UPDATE @ 11:50 A.M.: “Defenders of the status quo want to highlight the negative possibilities, while I would rather highlight the potential that this initiative gives local communities across California,” Draper replied late Wednesday morning.

“Increased college and university tuition costs combined with impacted college admissions have already put a college education out of reach for many working families hurting our chances to grow the middle class,” he said. “It is my hope that a Six State solution allows for a reboot on many issues including the chance to tailor colleges to the local community. This could include the ability for the various colleges and universities to allow for the Six state residents to pay in-state tuition just as we allow for dreamers and visionaries who were brought to this state from other countries.”

“The time has come to start thinking about the potential to return power to local communities and stop thinking that every answer needs to come out of Sacramento,” he said.

Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
Under: ballot measures | 21 Comments »

Boxer supports Danville couple’s MICRA measure

A ballot measure to raise California’s decades-old limit on medical-negligence lawsuit awards has gained a high-profile supporter: U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Bob and Carmen Pack of Danville, whose two children were killed by a drugged driver in 2003, submitted 840,000 signatures a week ago to qualify their measure for November’s ballot.

Barbara Boxer“I will never forget meeting a child who was severely disfigured and forever confined to a wheelchair because of medical malpractice,” Boxer, D-Calif., said in a news release issued Monday by the campaign supporting the mesaure.

“I was stunned to learn how unfair California law is in terms of compensating these patients and their families, and I committed to helping the victims of these tragedies,” Boxer continued. “That is why I am proud to support the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act, which will reform our judicial system to hold accountable those responsible for so much pain and suffering and ensure that patients and their families get the justice they deserve.”

The measure – supported by trial-lawyer groups – would index for inflation the state’s cap on malpractice recovery, now fixed at $250,000, for those without wage loss or medical bills. The Packs were entitled to recover only this $250,000 limit for each of their children’s lives; they note that $250,000 in 1975, when the cap was enacted as part of the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), would be worth only about $58,000 today. Adjusted for inflation, the cap would now be around $1.1 million.

The measure also would require random drug testing of doctors to prevent physician substance abuse, and require that doctors use the state’s existing prescription drug database to weed out doctor-shopping drug abusers like the one who killed the Packs’ kids.

Medical organizations oppose the measure. “A ballot measure that is certain to generate more medical lawsuits and drive up costs for every health consumer in California is the worst possible idea at the worst possible time,” California Medical Association President Dr. Richard Thorp said last week in a news release. “This initiative is bad for patients, bad for taxpayers and bad for California’s entire system of health care delivery.”

Posted on Monday, March 31st, 2014
Under: ballot measures, Barbara Boxer, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »