Our View: Give Dave Jones 4 more years as insurance commissioner

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has shown himself to be a consumer advocate.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has shown himself to be a consumer advocate. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has shown himself to be an aggressive regulator and has earned a second four-year term.

Jones, 52, a Democrat who represented Sacramento in the Assembly, has shown himself to be a consumer advocate. He’s also a defender of Proposition 103, a 1988 initiative that created an elected insurance commissioner and established the system for regulating auto and home insurance.

Jones has pushed insurance companies to provide greater coverage for treatment of autism and mental health care, and advocated for more disclosure by insurance companies about costs and benefits of policies.

He is a leading proponent of Proposition 45, which would grant his office control over health insurance. The Bee’s editorial board opposes that initiative, believing it would undermine the Affordable Care Act and place too much authority into the hands of one official. But Jones also acts as a check on Covered California, the agency that is implementing Obamacare in California.

Jones too often aligns himself with Consumer Watchdog, the Santa Monica-based advocacy organization that wrote Proposition 103 in 1988. Ever since, Consumer Watchdog has been intervening in rate cases and collecting intervenor fees, including $2.3 million in 2013. This year, Consumer Watchdog has brought four of the six actions that have come before the commissioner, resulting in payments of $177,000. The other two actions by other parties have resulted in payments of $53,000. Since 2010, Consumer Watchdog has brought 47 actions before the commissioner.

Jones says he encourages other organizations to intervene, but few show interest in doing so – that might be changing.

Jones ought to redouble his efforts in his second term and in the process put some distance between himself and the Santa Monica group, which has refused to name its backers since its inception.

Jones’ opponent on the Nov. 4 ballot is Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville. He is unfailingly civil and polite and has shown a willingness to find common ground with Democrats, particularly on issues related to economic development.

Gaines, 56, is an independent insurance agent who contends Jones’ policies are chasing insurers out of California. If that’s so, we’re hard pressed to understand why we are being bombarded by television commercials from insurance companies.

Gaines even doubts whether the insurance commissioner should be an elected position. He also is skeptical about the regulatory scheme established by Proposition 103.

But Proposition 103 has been the law in California for a generation. The person who occupies the office of insurance commissioner should be a believer in the office and in the law that created it. In this election, Jones is that candidate.