2023 brings new insurance protections for California consumers
News: 2022 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Beginning January 1, 2023, Californians will benefit from newly created consumer protections as eleven new state laws sponsored by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara this past legislative session take effect. The new laws address climate change, expand health access and reproductive care, preserve health protections, protect against fraud, and ensure public safety.
“Protecting consumers is my number one priority,” said Commissioner Lara. “Partnership with the Legislature and Governor Newsom is essential to my Department’s mission of bringing fairness for all in our oversight of the nation’s largest insurance market. I look forward to putting these eleven new laws into effect while taking further actions that benefit California consumers.”
New laws that start taking effect on January 1, 2023 include:
- AB 2238, jointly authored by Assemblymembers Luz Rivas, Eduardo Garcia, and former Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, directs the creation of a statewide extreme heat advance warning and ranking system based on climate and health impact information by the California Environmental Protection Agency, in coordination with the Department of Insurance and the Integrated Climate Adaption and Resiliency program in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. This would be the nation’s first-ever extreme heat wave ranking system when it is finalized by January 1, 2025.
- SB 852, authored by Senator Bill Dodd, authorizes the creation of Climate Resilience Districts statewide to help communities mitigate risk in advance of a disaster and promote recovery, a recommendation from the Department of Insurance’s first-ever climate insurance report that would improve access to insurance for all, so that we can better prepare ourselves from increasing climate change-related threats. CivicWell was also a co-sponsor to this measure.
- AB 2134, jointly authored by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber and former Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, establishes the “Reproductive Health Equity Program” to make available grants to providers who offer reproductive and sexual health care free of cost to patients with low incomes and those who lack health care coverage for reproductive health services, including consumers who come to California from other states that have decreased access to abortion care services. The grants afforded under AB 2134 are in addition to $40 million appropriated in the enacted 2022-23 State Budget to help cover these important health care services. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, NARAL Pro-Choice of California, Access Reproductive Justice, Essential Access Health, and the National Health Law Program were also co-sponsors to this measure.
- AB 1823, authored by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, aligns the definition of student blanket policies that are purchased by colleges and universities with the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). This alignment is necessary to ensure state regulatory oversight and that consumer protections under the ACA are also applicable to these student health policies sold through a university or college to their enrolled students, including Dreamers and refugee students.
- AB 2127, authored by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, is an important follow-up measure to Commissioner Lara’s previously sponsored “Parent Healthcare Act” last year, that would clarify and strengthen notice requirements for Medicare-eligible older adults who are seeking to be added as dependents to their adult child’s individual health insurance policy or health care service plan contract.
- AB 2568, authored by former Assemblymember Ken Cooley, creates a ”safe harbor” by stating that an individual or firm providing insurance or related services to a state legal cannabis business does not commit a crime under California law solely for providing that insurance or related service.
- SB 972, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez, brings thousands of entrepreneurial sidewalk food vendors into a more equitable and well-regulated food economy by updating the “Safe Sidewalk Vending Act,” which Commissioner Lara authored in 2018 as a member of the California State Senate to end the criminalization of sidewalk vending. Inclusive Action for the City, Public Counsel, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the Community Power Collective, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty – all part of the California Street Vendor Campaign – were also co-sponsors to this measure.
- SB 1040, authored by Senator Susan Rubio, authorizes the Insurance Commissioner to order restitution from persons who sell insurance without the necessary license from the Department of Insurance, including “extended vehicle warranties” sold illegally through robocalls and misappropriation of consumers’ and businesses’ premiums, among other insurance scams.
- SB 1242, authored by the Senate Committee on Insurance, bolsters anti-insurance fraud efforts essential to protecting consumers from unnecessary economic loss by further clarifying agent-broker anti-fraud education requirements as well as the process by which alleged fraud is reported to the Department of Insurance, in addition to other consumer protection proposals.
New laws that start taking effect in July 2023 include:
- AB 2205, authored by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, requires health insurers and health plans offering coverage through Covered California to report annually to the Department of Insurance and the Department of Managed Health Care the total amount of abortion funds. This new law will require transparency and disclosure from health carriers to regulators regarding the amount of separate abortion premium payments that are being collected from policyholders and distributed as claims. As we consider options available for payment of abortion services, this new law will help regulators and policymakers identify available funds to support abortion patients in California. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the National Health Law Program were also co-sponsors of this measure.
- AB 2043, authored by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer Sr., requires all bail fugitive recovery agents, commonly known as “bounty hunters,” to be licensed by the Department of Insurance to ensure that appropriate education and training requirements are met prior to licensure and that all applicants successfully pass fingerprint-based background checks, obtain an appointment from a licensed bail agent or surety insurer, and maintain a minimum $1 million liability insurance policy so that harmed consumers have an avenue to collect damages.
In addition to these new laws, in October, Commissioner Lara enforced the nation’s first wildfire safety regulation to help drive down the cost of insurance for Californians at risk of wildfires, further protecting vulnerable consumers across the state. Commissioner Lara’s regulation is the first in the nation requiring insurance companies to provide discounts to consumers under the Safer from Wildfires framework created by the Department of Insurance in partnership with state emergency preparedness agencies. The regulation is now state law and enshrined in the California Code of Regulations. Under the new regulation, insurance companies are required to make new rate filings including wildfire safety discounts and comply with new transparency measures starting in April 2023.
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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.