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

Governor Highlights Specific Steps to Help Californians Access & Afford Coverage

For immediate release: Tuesday, February 12, 2018


Governor Highlights Specific Steps to Help Californians Access & Afford Coverage

  • Governor Newsom continues to embrace the long-term vision of universal coverage; Advocates urge the Legislature to scale up the “down payment” for universal coverage to match the rhetoric and to provide tangible help to Californians this year.
  • Governor highlights specific support for major expansions of health coverage and other key health reforms, including first-in-the-nation actions applauded by health advocates: increasing affordability assistance to middle-income Californians who buy coverage in Covered California, and expanding Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented adults up to age 26.
  • Advocates welcomed that the Governor went beyond his drug price purchasing pool to address high health prices broadly, including those driven by the consolidation of hospitals and health plans.
  • The #Care4AllCA campaign of over 60 consumer and community groups thankful the Governor has taken up many legislative and budget proposals we championed protect and expand coverage – seek further steps to fulfill these shared goals.

Here is a comment from Anthony Wright, Executive Director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition, and co-convener of the #Care4AllCA campaign in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s first State of the State address:

OVERALL COMMENT ON THE SPEECH: “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.”

COVERAGE EXPANSIONS: “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 acknowledgments 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.”

BEYOND COVERAGE, ON COSTS: “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.”

In March 2018, over 50 organizations came together in the #Care4AllCA campaign to advance universal coverage in the near future, without the need for federal approvals. The campaign advanced 20 bills and budget items last year, and had eight pieces of legislation signed into law, although not the coverage expansion elements. The path to universal coverage that campaign endorsed that did not need federal approval, but was complementary with longer-term efforts like a Medicare-for-All system, included expanding Medi-Cal to remove exclusions based on age, disability, or immigration status; providing greater affordability assistance in the individual insurance market and Covered California; reinstituting a state-level individual requirement to purchase coverage; and other reforms, including expanding prescription drug purchasing collaboratives.

UC Berkeley Labor Center and UCLA Center for Health Policy Research recently released a report titled “California’s Health Coverage Gains to Erode Without Further State Action” detailing the negative state-level impacts of the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. Researchers find that because of the removal of the requirement to have health insurance, the uninsurance rate of people under age 65 could grow to 11.7% in 2020 (about 4 million people) and then to 12.9% in 2023 (or 4.4 million people), undoing the historic gains that California has made under the ACA. The largest groups of the remaining uninsured are undocumented Californians who are barred from accessing most health coverage options and Californians who struggle to afford their care.