California Insurance Commissioner
Ricardo Lara has worked his way up the ranks of California state politics, and now he’s hoping to hold onto his post as insurance commissioner. The son of immigrants, Lara is also the first openly gay statewide elected official in the Golden State.
During his time as commissioner, Lara temporarily blocked insurance companies from dropping homeowners impacted by some wildfires in 2019 and 2020, and proposed new rules that would require insurance companies to offer discounts to homeowners who take certain steps to protect their house against fire. He also directed insurance companies to return some auto insurance premiums to California drivers, who were on the road less during the pandemic.
After the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to get an abortion, Lara was vocal about his support for abortion access.
At an industry conference in 2019, Lara expressed an openness to giving insurers drivers’ data to insurers to set auto insurance rates — a move opposed by consumer advocates who raised privacy concerns. But by 2022 he had changed his tune, sparring with Elon Musk on Twitter over the tech mogul’s push for California driver data.
Lara’s tenure has also been marked by a series of controversies. First, it was for accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from insurance industry executives after pledging not to do so. After the San Diego Union-Tribune reported the donations, Lara pledged to return the cash. Lara’s office also intervened at least four times in proceedings involving a company whose executives and their spouses made donations to Lara’s reelection campaign.
Lara also rented a second residence in Sacramento, where his work as commissioner often takes him, and stuck taxpayers with the bill. A spokesperson defended this move, telling Politico it wasn’t illegal and “had the potential to benefit taxpayers by saving on hotel costs.”
In May, the California Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation into Lara and several political committees over a series of political contributions. It is still underway.
Insurance commissioner, State of California
Ran California’s Department of Insurance, managing nearly 1,400 employees.
Temporarily protected 2.1 million homeowners in fire-prone areas from potentially having their home insurance dropped, and proposed new regulations that would require insurers to give discounts to homeowners who take steps to protect their properties from wildfires. The proposed rules, however, don’t protect homeowners who fire-proof their homes from getting dropped by their insurer.
When people drove less during the pandemic — and got into fewer accidents — Lara directed insurance companies to refund some premiums, saving customers more than $2.4 billion, according to the insurance department, though advocacy groups say that drivers are still owed more. Last October, Lara ordered three large auto insurers, with 20% of the market, to provide detailed data on how they will reimburse drivers or face legal action.
Sponsored legislation that allows adult children to add their parents to their health insurance policies, with the aim of reducing family health costs.
California state senator
Represented District 33, which includes part of Los Angeles County
Beginning in 2017, Lara led the appropriations committee, a position that gave him influence over how taxpayer money is spent
Authored Senate Bill 30, which requires the insurance commissioner to convene a working group to discuss policies to reduce the costs from wildfires, extreme heat, and flooding. He also authored SB 824, which prohibits insurers from dropping homeowners’ coverage for a year if they live within or right next to a fire’s perimeter during a declared state emergency.
Introduced SB 562, which did not pass, but which would have established universal health insurance, paid for by the state.
Wrote the HealthForAll Kids Act, SB 4, which expanded full-scope Medi-Cal to cover all low-income children regardless of immigration status.
California state Assemblymember
“Californians are enduring unprecedented devastation, dealing with the fallout of a global pandemic, destructive reoccurring wildfires and fighting for the health care they need during difficult times. I want all Californians to know: I’m on your side.”
Here’s a look at where Ricardo Lara stands on the most pressing issues he would face in office.
The state insurance commissioner regulates the insurance industry in California, including the auto, home and life markets.
- Implementing our new wildfire regulations and expanding funding for wildfire safety is going to require continued partnership with the governor, the Legislature, local fire chiefs and homeowners. I am the only one in this race with the experience to see this through.
- Implementing the recommendations in our climate insurance report to protect communities from flooding, extreme heat and wildfires. This is going to take leadership, willpower and partnership. We can’t be pushed off course by the politics of the moment or just do things to get headlines.
As a former legislator, I have long-standing record of working with the governor and Legislature to get important things done on behalf of California consumers, whether increasing payouts and evacuation benefits for wildfire survivors (Senate Bill 872 in 2020) and creating new disclosures and coverage to meet upgraded building codes (AB 2756 in 2020). I am sponsoring legislation (AB 2238) that would save lives during extreme heat events by making California the first state to rank heat waves and establish an early warning system. This idea came directly from our first-ever climate insurance report. I’m endorsed by the governor and more than 100 members of Congress, state legislators and statewide elected officials.
Yes, motorists should get further discounts for driving less during the pandemic and helping save lives. That’s why I directed insurance companies to provide premium relief to drivers and businesses due to reduced risk of loss, leading to cost savings of $2.4 billion and counting.
We can and should do much more to protect the privacy of motorists driving in their cars. I support strong implementation of the California Privacy Rights Act to stop corporations from taking consumers’ data without their permission. I am also committed to uphold the protections under Proposition 103 passed by voters and rules that allow vehicle data only to determine actual miles driven. I will not bend on protecting consumer data, privacy and fair rates.
Yes. I am pursuing regulations that will drive down the cost of insurance for those who make their homes safer from wildfires. If you do the work, you should see the reward in your insurance. That is why I created the first-ever Safer from Wildfires framework with Gov. Newsom’s administration, creating consistent and achievable wildfire safety measures for homes and communities. I am working to improve coverage options for homeowners. I ordered the FAIR Plan – California’s insurance safety net – to increase homeowners coverage limits, and to offer a comprehensive homeowners’ insurance coverage option in addition to its current limited coverage.
Since 2019, I have participated in more than 60 town halls and community events about the growing threat of wildfires to lives and property. My comprehensive solution for addressing wildfires comes directly from these meetings. Homes that burn down or flood are not affordable. That’s why I’m working to increase home safety incentives in wildfire-prone areas. At my urging, insurance companies have significantly expanded premium discounts, now available to 2 out of every 5 consumers, providing as much as 20% discounts for wildfire-hardened homes. When my new regulations go into effect, these discounts will be available to every home and business at risk of wildfires.
Health insurance regulation is currently split between the Department of Insurance (run by the insurance commissioner) and the Department of Managed Health Care (whose director is appointed by the governor).
I can only speak to the system we currently have, and have worked very hard to use my current authority at the California Department of Insurance to make insurers give consumers back their hard-earned money. As Insurance Commissioner, I directed health insurance companies to return premiums due to reduced use of health care services during the pandemic. I also directed health insurance companies to provide increased telehealth access for consumers. Under my leadership the Department of Insurance will continue to defend the right to choose and enforce all laws requiring insurers to cover abortion.
Same as above: I can only speak to the system we currently have, and have worked very hard to use my current authority at the California Department of Insurance to make insurers give consumers back their hard-earned money. As Insurance Commissioner, I directed health insurance companies to return premiums due to reduced use of health care services during the pandemic. I also directed health insurance companies to provide increased telehealth access for consumers. Under my leadership the Department of Insurance will continue to defend the right to choose and enforce all laws requiring insurers to cover abortion.
I am a strong supporter of Health Care for All. As a member of the state Senate, I proudly authored Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, which would have created a universal, single-payer health care system in California.
Lara accepted campaign donations from the insurance industry after pledging not to do so.
Yes, and I also believe that organizations receiving payments from the state of California should be required to disclose their donors.
All statewide elected officials should be bound by the same transparency laws.