5 Things California: Election run down, Asm. Aguiar-Curry, My COVID experience

To paraphrase Churchill, it feels like this is not the end of our election and political strife. Perhaps this isn’t even the beginning of the end. Perhaps, this is the end of the beginning. Legal contents of the elections are building. Tighter congressional majorities will demand greater party orthodoxy to keep functional caucuses together in the new year. Taken together, it means more division ahead, not less.

If we are going to reform health care, it will take more understanding, not less; more collaboration and cooperation, not less. This is perhaps even more true for our unique American republic.





With help from Emily Boerger

1. Health care election run down

Sen. Holly Mitchell won her LA County supervisor race, creating a historic all-female board of supervisors. Stem cell research will get a huge infusion of funding debt-financed through a bond sale. Los Angeles County voters agreed to divert 10% of general fund dollars to social service programs designed to divert incarceration. SEIU’s effort to force the unionization of dialysis centers by voter initiative, Proposition 23, fell short winning only 36% of the vote.

Republicans will pick up seats in the US House, in part because of winning back seats in places like Orange County. Kevin McCarthy makes a compelling argument about House Republicans’ success with 7 pickups and as many as 11 more possible. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi faces pressure to step down from her left and right flanks, something likely to build in the weeks ahead.

2. Q&A with Asm. Aguiar-Curry

Reporter Shawna De La Rosa recently interviewed Assemblymember Cecilia M. Aguiar-Curry, who chairs the Local Government Committee in the chamber, is also a key figure on the Assembly’s Committee on Health. Her 4th district includes the Napa/Yolo region, and stretches from the Sacramento suburbs to the East Bay.

Aguiar-Curry says she’s interested in legislation to spur broader internet access to support the advancements in telehealth that have come out of COVID. She thinks this can be a smart strategy to support development of health care options for rural California. “I’ve always been interested in improving rural health care because it’s really difficult to make available. Doctors will come out to our area for awhile, but if they are married, their wives may not like living out here. And they usually have big medical school bills. So they don’t tend to stay very long.”

3. The plan to save the ACA is scuttled

Next week, SCOTUS will hear California v. Texas. If the ACA is overturned come June, California is at risk for up to $25 billion annually which it receives under the legislation. That would mean about 5 million Californians could lose insurance overnight, causing a “death spiral” for the rest of the health care market.

US House Democrats had a quiet plan to try to save the ACA next year. They planned to vote to increase the individual mandate penalty at the center of the legal challenge. By re-establishing the penalty, the constitutional grounds for overturning the ACA would be eliminated. Strong wins in November, so the argument went, would make the voter mandate to keep the ACA clear. However, without a Senate majority, Democrats are unlikely to get a vote on a new penalty greater than zero. In any case, this election has not delivered a clear federal mandate for anything, leaving the strategy more theory than soon-to-be-practice.

4. I got COVID. Here is what I learned.

Over the last few weeks, I was diagnosed with COVID. I quarantined in my home office with light but still-worrying symptoms. While the disease was jarring, even more disappointing was my experience with the primary care and public health systems. I’ve written before about how good the care was for my uncle when he was 38 days on a ventilator.

But, it’s clear to me now that if you get COVID, you’re mostly on your own. Testing is still a mess in many cases, and varied across county lines. Even the protocols don’t seem to make sense. For example, if you come in contact with someone with COVID, but you test negative, the protocol is to quarantine for 14 days. If you test positive, you only need to quarantine for 10 days. I know the reasons why this might be the case still, but the gold standard is two negative tests about five days apart. With more testing, we can dispense with this 14-day requirement and better support people in managing through this crisis. Alas, even in ‘taking-this-very-seriously’ California, there doesn’t seem to be a coherent testing strategy across the state.

5. Kamala’s seat in the US Senate

With what looks like a soon-to-be vacated US Senate seat, Gov. Newsom will need to move quickly to appoint a replacement to Sen. Harris. If she wins the vice presidency, the question of “when” she vacates could be important in a tight Senate majority of perhaps one vote.  Just as important is when Newsom would publicly announce his intended replacement so that he/she can get up to speed.

According to a new poll, no clear replacement stands out in the public’s mind. US Rep. Barbara Lee is the most mentioned name, but 76% of respondents said they want a “fresh and new voice” to hold the seat. Notably, only 2% said “health care” was the most important issue facing California, with climate change & wildfires taking 24%. But, when asked about Joe Biden’s top priority if he becomes president, COVID/health care top the list with 47% support.