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Photo at left: Dave Jones- from BenefitsPro website

Today marked the inaugural meeting of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, held at the College-Rolando Library branch. It was attended by close to 100 of the group’s stated membership of over 500 citizens. Union members were well-represented, as the group teamed with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council to attract initial interest in the movement.

Board member Pat Zaharopoulos opened the meeting with a brief explanation of the background and intent of the non-profit group, to educate and advise California voters. “We are not funded by corporations. We are not funded by big business . . . we will not have professional lobbyists on our board . . . we plan to be the voice for the average California taxpayer.”

Zaharopoulos then turned her attention to some of the issues facing the country’s shrinking middle class, including escalating education and health care costs and the stagnation of average workers’ wages. “In 1970 the CEOs got about 28 times what the average worker got, we’re now at about 158 times that.” She contrasted this to Europeans, whose leaders are paid approximately 25 times what the workers are.

The keynote speaker at the meeting was Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner. His focus first turned to what he stated were the positive accomplishments of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to by critics as ‘Obamacare.’ A key point was a provision taking effect January 1 requiring health insurance providers to spend a minimum 80% of premiums collected on what the industry refers to as its ‘medical loss ratio,’ which in essence is the cost of actually providing care. “It wasn’t too long ago that Anthem Blue Cross only put 60 cents on the dollar into actual medical care – about a decade ago, actually,” added Jones.

He then took insurers to task on their rising profit margins coinciding with rising consumer premiums. “The top five insurers in the nation in 2010 made $11.7 billion dollars . . .that’s a 17 percent increase from 2009 when they made $9.9 billion and a 51 increase from 2008 when they made $7.8 billion.”

Omitted from the Affordable Care Act was a provision to allow insurance commissioners to regulate rate hikes. Currently the California commissioner has the authority to regulate rate increases for home, auto, and other types of property insurance, granted via voter approval of Prop 103 in 1988. While 35 other states allow their commissioners some control over rates, California currently does not.

The state legislature is now considering SB-52, a bill to provide these powers to the insurance commissioner. Per Jones, the bill has been approved by the Assembly and is under consideration by various Senate committees before coming to a full vote. Lending support to the bill were local Democratic Assembly members Ben Hueso, Marty Block, and Toni Atkins.

The floor was then opened for questions. This time was used largely for meeting attendees to voice their personal frustrations with the health care system. A woman who identified herself as Annie went so far as to ask the commissioner to revoke the license of her provider to practice in the state. Image

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Comments

Radical Uterus July 8, 2011 @ 3:58 a.m.

I can relate to Annie's request. I see no value in the current health care system. It should be called the health coersion system. My experience with local health providers has left me even more cynical than I was before I became a recipient of medicare. (I too am amazed that I have become more cynical.)

It is a system that has no relationship to health and very little caring on the part of the providers. The bottom line rules and sick people are not welcome to participate. I have come to this attitude over fifty years of watching health care plummet in direct proportion to the profit it generates.

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SurfPuppy619 July 8, 2011 @ 8:06 a.m.

They need to focus on PUBLIC unions as well.

Public unions are a BIGGER threat to the poor and middle class taxpayer than insurance companies are-but insurance companies need to be reined in too.

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BradleyFikes July 8, 2011 @ 10:22 a.m.

SurfPuppy619, that's not going to happen. The name is deceptive, this is a union group with a left of center political orientation: Just look at its board of directors: http://www.middleclasstaxpayers.org/Board.html

This group will rail against big business, but not against big labor. It will support lefty Democrats and their causes, and oppose conservative Republicans and Libertarians. And don't expect this group to support tax cuts, except when combined with higher taxes on "the wealthy".

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Visduh July 9, 2011 @ 8:09 a.m.

This blog does raise some truth in labeling issues. It is a "taxpayers" group, yet its debut here locally is as a consumer advocacy group, aimed at the health insurers. The writer mentions nothing about taxpayer relief, largely I suppose because the meeting was held to bash the insurance industry. (Not that it doesn't deserve plenty of scorn.) When it takes up tax matters, I might get interested. How about this $150 per parcel per year fire protection "fee" that was just signed to law by Brown?

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SurfPuppy619 July 10, 2011 @ 12:04 a.m.

How about this $150 per parcel per year fire protection "fee" that was just signed to law by Brown?

I am fairly confident that this will be ruled unconstitutional.

As will the Amazon collection of internet sales taxes.

Brown needs to address employee compensation, that is by FAR the biggest driver of the budget and it is going to destroy us if not addressed.

You cannot have gov employees getting 9% raises every year over a 4 year contract-as the prison guards did under Davis.

Nor have millions of highly paid, EXTREMELY HIGH PAID, gov employees like cops, ff's, life guards and the 19 other gov blue collar occupations classified as "public safety". Retiring at age 50 with the same salary they were making with automatic annual COLA's. Simply not enough money.

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BradleyFikes July 9, 2011 @ 5:48 p.m.

Visduh, it's extremely common for interest group organizations to use totally deceptive names. The "Committee to Save Cute Li'l Baby Seals," may well be protecting seal hunters.

Also, organizations that are technically non-partisan can be in fact intensely political. All non-partisan means is that they don't officially endorse a political party. They are free to line up with issues backed by one party or another.

Many reporters deceive the public by describing political lobbying outfits as non-partisan, without informing the public of their political agenda.

The California Budget Project is one such technically nonpartisan group, often quoted as an objective expert on the budget, when it's actually a left-leaning group. Time magazine deserves credit for properly describing the CBP: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1911862,00.html

Here's a game: Name a political organization that uses the nonpartisan moniker to pass itself off as nonpolitical.

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Visduh July 9, 2011 @ 6:13 p.m.

I love a challenge! How about The League of Women Voters? Or the American Association of University Women? (Sorry ladies, I didn't mean to pick on the distaff side. Those just popped into my head.)

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