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Fierce Fight Over Health Insurance

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Fierce Fight Over Health Insurance

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HOLON, ISRAEL - OCTOBER 15: Israeli physicians watch on a TV screen in the operating theatre as Kirwan, an 11-year-old Kurdish boy from northern Iraq, undergoes emergency surgery to repair a hole in his heart at the Wolfson Medical Center October 15, 2007 in Holon, near Tel Aviv. Kirwan is one of dozens of Iraqi children who have been rushed to Israel this year for life-saving heart surgery organized by the Christian Shevet Achim group and the Israeli-based organization "Save A Child's Heart". Since it was founded in 1996, "Save A Child's Heart" has treated more than 1,700 children from 28 countries around the world bringing most of them to Israel for their surgery. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

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State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has the health insurance industry, and Blue Shield specifically, in his sights. 

California is one of more than 20 states that allow insurance companies to set premiums without a go-ahead from state regulators.

Jones wants to change that. 

He's pushing AB 52, which is considered one of the biggest legislative battles being waged during the last two weeks of the current session in Sacramento. 

The measure, by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), would give the commissioner the same power to veto increases that he currently has for car and homeowner insurance policies.

But the measure has ignited a firestorm of opposition. 

The League of California Cities says the measure would hamper local governments' ability to set worker premiums through collective bargaining.

"The League's reasons for opposing AB52 should raise flags for all large employers and public agencies," said Patrick Johnston, president of the California Association of Health Plans.

The Brown Administration isn't happy either. 

The Department of Finance says the change would be costly and could result in a lengthy approval process that would leave many California residents without health coverage.

Blue Shield helped ignite this fight with its surprising proposal to hike some individual policy premiums by 59 percent; a move it shelved after a predictable public outcry.

But insurers say most of the money they collect goes to medical expenses.  They warn that AB52 will reduce access to doctors and necessary medical care.

Doctors, lawyers, and insurance companies are gearing up for an epic battle that will profoundly affect anyone who worries about their coverage.

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