How Voting Today Can Save You More Than $100 Billion

women hand casting a vote
women hand casting a vote

They say pictures are worth one thousand words, but voting literally can be worth hundreds of billions of dollars to you.

When California voters like me voted on a highly-contested insurance reform ballot measure in 1988, we could not have foreseen how much it would have saved us 28 years later.

Just yesterday, for example, California's elected insurance commissioner, an office created by the reform Proposition 103, announced another $100 million plus savings for State Farm policyholders with homeowners insurance.

Over 1.7 million State Farm homeowners, condo owners and renters will collectively receive more than $100 million in refunds and save $156 million per year in premiums under an order issued yesterday by Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones pursuant to insurance reform Proposition 103.

Before the 1988 landmark reform, insurance companies could charge whatever they wanted with no limit.

The total savings from the measure for drivers alone on their auto insurance topped $100 billion in 2014, according to a report by the Consumer Federation of America. That doesn't count other lines of insurance, like homeowners.

After listening to Bernie Sanders at a rally for drug price relief Prop 61 in downtown Los Angeles yesterday, I'm struck by the parallel.

Sanders said the reason drug companies are spending $130 million against Prop 61's drug price relief is, "What they are scared to death of is that for the first time a state is going to go on record and say you cannot raise your prices to any level you want. Prop 61 is a moral issue. It is an issue of whether people in our country should die or get sicker than they should be because they cannot afford a pill that costs pennies to manufacture."

The moral issue in 1988 was whether low-income drivers had to choose between food and overpriced auto insurance after mandatory auto insurance laws took effect. The voters rendered their verdict by a 51 percent vote.

The drug companies' scare tactics against Prop 61 are reminiscent of the insurance industry's against Prop 103, which also ended ZIP-code based auto insurance, the first and only state to do so. (The drug companies set a record with their campaign against Prop 61, the previous record holder the insurers' campaign against Prop 103: $80 million worth of failed effort in 1988 dollars.)

Insurance companies said they would leave the state, in the same way drug companies are saying they will muck around with pricing laws if Prop 61 passes. State Farm left for a day, and came back after all the other insurance companies remained to sell insurance to the biggest driving state in America.

Now the state of California is forcing State Farm to issue refunds, currently valued at over $100 million, for the excess insurance premiums State Farm had collected from its customers since July 15, 2015.

State Farm will also have to decrease homeowners, condo owners, and renters insurance rates by an average of 7.0 percent, or about $78.6 million per year.

Since State Farm had requested rate increases of about $77.4 million per year, policyholders were protected from a total of $156 million per year in overcharges. Thanks to a challenge brought by Consumer Watchdog, the consumer group I head, and the Consumer Federation of California under Prop 103 and yesterday's order by Insurance Commissioner Jones.

Voting matters. Regulation works. Vote today, and vote for Prop 61. Save Californians hundreds of billions of dollars more.