Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) today signed on as an original cosponsor to the Health Insurance Rate Authority Act of 2011—legislation that would give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to offer remedies to consumers that face unfair health insurance rate hikes.

The legislation allows the Secretary or a relevant state regulator to take corrective action including denying the rate increase, forcing rate modifications, or ordering rebates when increases are found to be excessive, unjustified, or unfairly discriminatory. This legislation would complement the $250 million in grants to states enacted as part of the health care reform law to strengthen the oversight of premium increases. California has already received $1 million as part of that initiative and is using the funds to improve the collection of data on proposed health insurance rate hikes.

“It’s high time we hold health insurance companies accountable for arbitrarily and unfairly jacking up rates,” Speier said. “This legislation would give teeth to the efforts we began last year and ensure unfair rate increases aren’t just reported, but voided all together.”

Speier has been a champion of health care consumers, including supporting reform which banned the worst practices of insurance companies like rescissions, lifetime caps, and discriminating against people with preexisting conditions.