Gubernatorial candidates saying little on health care

Around one-third of California’s $200 billion budget goes toward health care with private health insurance spending in the state, estimated at over $100 billion a year. Yet since the primary, California gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Cox have said little about one of the more pressing issues facing the state.

In the only debate of the season on October 8th, the candidates only tangentially brushed the subject in relation to other issues like housing and homelessness, abortion rights, and gun control. And even before the debate neither candidate said much on health care.  Yet prior to the primaries, the single-payer conversation looked poised to become the defining issue of the race.

Gavin Newsom has long been a proponent of a single-payer health care system. As mayor of San Francisco he instituted a “universal coverage” system in the city. But since May, when legislative analysis was released showing that single-payer could cost California upwards of $400 billion, he has gotten quieter on the issue. In August he did again indicate support for the concept in a general way telling the podcast “Pod Save America,”

“I did universal healthcare when I was mayor — fully implemented, regardless of pre-existing condition, ability to pay, and regardless of your immigration status. I’d like to see that extended to the rest of the state.”

The passage of AB 1810, which announces the legislative intent to establish a single-payer system and establishes a commission to study the issue also took the pressure off, allowing whomever is elected to ease off while the commission researches and reports, likely a long process.

Cox, for his part, has not said much about health care except to oppose single-payer concepts stating,

“It’s just another very expensive welfare program for people who do not pay into the system.”

Though following last week’s debate, he did issue a statement clarifying some of his stances including health care on which he said he supports affordable health care for everyone, including those with preexisting conditions, but did not include any specifics. He stated,

“Our current system was designed by political insiders and health care corporate lobbyists to protect their monopoly profits, not to provide decent health care at a reasonable price.”

Despite the silence on health care, Newsom appears likely to prevail in November with a solid lead in the polls. And perhaps it is easier to have few recent details on his plan for health care in press than to have to backpedal on issues once in office.