Governor Newsom Pushes Single-Payer Health Care Agenda Forward…Kind of

During Governor Newsom’s successful gubernatorial election run, he lauded the single-payer health care model.  While the concept has garnered red-hot attention amongst Democratic Presidential candidates, the issue has gone stone cold in California.  That is, until the Governor announced he had created a single-payer commission to explore the health care financing concept.

On December 17, the formation of the Healthy California For All Commission was made public by Governor Newsom.  The commission is comprised of 17 people and members include the likes of Covered California’s Executive Director, the head of the Department of Health Care Services, the Senate and Assembly Health Committee chairmen, in addition to academic and advocacy-based subject matter experts.

The Governor indicated that the Commission would, among other things, be exploring national health insurance programs from other countries in order to consider the concepts that could work for California.  While a single-payer system is certainly unique and progressive, it eradicates Californians’ freedom to choose their preferred health care coverage.  A recent CalChamber poll found that by a three-to-one margin, voters preferred to keep their own health insurance rather than switch to a government-run program.  This seems to confirm that a state-run health insurance system is out-of-step with consumer preferences.

If voter opinions fail to assuage single-payer implementation, the cost of this system should certainly invoke pause amongst supporters.  In 2017, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s analysis on SB 562 estimated the cost of a single-payer system in California would be approximately $400 billion.  Closely following behind this estimated cost would be the tab for federal red tape which would mummify a state effort to implement a single-payer system.  Federal waivers would have to be obtained for all federal programs that pay for health care services such as Medicare and Medicaid.  Not to mention, a Republican controlled White House would likely impose ironclad impediments to the plan’s execution.

Governor Newsom made no bones about his support for a single-payer system when he was on the campaign trail.  The Commission’s announcement keeps the single payer conversation alive, albeit theoretical at this point.

Preston Young, Policy Advocate