In First State of the State, Governor Newsom Outlines Big Ideas on Health Care Affordability

In his first State of the State address, Governor Newsom outlined big ideas on health care.  Governor Newsom is right to focus on the affordability crisis in California, given the costs of health care, housing and other expenses in our state. From premiums to prescription drug prices, the Governor pinpointed the problem that Californians are struggling with high health care costs and offered salient solutions we can get to this year.

The Legislature should follow the Governor’s call to action on health care affordability, and take it even further. The Legislature should pass proposals the Governor suggested he might sign to reign in health consolidation and health costs. The Legislature should also make the investments beyond the Governor’s proposals for a real ‘downpayment’ to the goal of universal health care, providing the relief needed to low- and middle-income Californians across the state as soon as possible.

Governor Newsom again called out the Trump Administration’s vandalism of our health care system, and is seeking state action to shield Californians from the premium increases and lost coverage that federal changes may cause. All Californians will benefit when more consumers are covered, getting primary and preventive care, in first-in-the-nation proposals to expand coverage beyond the ACA. California would be the first to increase financial help to middle-income families trying to afford individual insurance. By removing exclusions in Medi-Cal for low-income young adults regardless of immigration status, California would also be the first to extend Medicaid coverage to undocumented adults, beyond pregnant women and children. These investments are important acknowledgements that our health system is stronger when everyone is included. These steps outlined today would put California on an aspirational and achievable path to universal coverage.

While these steps are significant, there are more steps we can take to get us closer to universal coverage. To match the Governor’s rhetoric, we urge the Legislature to increase specific investments to align with what the Assembly proposed last year. Last year’s proposed ‘down payment’ to universal coverage was a billion dollars, a small fraction of the surplus, but a sizable sum to get our uninsured rate down below 5% where most developed countries are. The Care4All California campaign of over 60 health, consumer, and community organizations proposed many parts of this agenda last year, and we are glad that Governor Newsom is taking up these goals. Our campaign will champion these and other efforts to move our state forward on our health care goal to universal coverage.

The Governor is right in the speech to focus on controlling costs, particularly prescription drug prices. We are especially heartened to see that the Governor wants to tackle consolidation and other issues that lead to higher health care costs. Governor Newsom’s call to action should be the first step to using the state’s market and moral power to address high health costs overall. Health, consumer and labor advocates are itching to address health care costs head-on.

The California electorate clearly expects to not just keep us where we are, but to address the affordability crisis in health care and other areas. Governor Newsom made it clear today that he plans to protect California’s progress while taking steps to guaranteed, affordable, quality, health care coverage for all.