Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (who merits his own Yelp reviews) is many things, but a man of his word is not one of them. Newsom, who is running for Governor of California in 2018, has long suggested that he supported a single payer healthcare system. He won the endorsement of the California Nurses Association with that promise. He had been a little unclear as to what exactly he supported, but at the California Democrats Convention in May, he was asked specifically by single-payer supporters if he supported SB 562, the single-payer healthcare bill authored by CNA and introduced by Senators Richard Lara and Tony Atkins, he unequivocally said that he did.
His support did not last long. In a recent public appearance, Newsom has backed away from single payer and now supports a a mix of public and private coverage similar Healthy San Francisco – basically, a public option. But Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance and has considerable limitations. For one, it only covers San Francisco residents that utilize designated San Francisco doctors, clinics and hospitals. Someone covered by Healthy San Francisco that falls ill or gets into an accident elsewhere, is on the hook for all of their medical bills – which can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Indeed, Healthy San Francisco does not qualify as “insurance” for Obamacare purposes, and most of the people that were covered by it moved to private insurance once that became an option. Just as significantly, Healthy San Francisco does nothing to control private insurance premiums as it does not provide bonafide competition to insurance companies. This means that many San Franciscans are still painfully under-insured and subject to high premiums and deductibles.
Newsom may feel comfortable disavowing single payer, because his main opponent for the governorship, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, also opposes it. State Treasurer John Chiang, who is also running for governor but polling in the single-digits, is cagey about most of his policy views, including single-payer. Indeed, the only strong advocate of single payer among the declared candidates for Governor is former Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin, who, non-coincidentally, has garnered the support of the progressives in the party.
The anti-universal healthcare stance of the three male Democrats in this race might appear to create the space for other well funded candidates to jump in and campaign on a pro-single payer basis. Among those who are rumored to be entertaining a run is Kevin de León, the President pro tempore of the California Senate who voted for SB 562 and whipped the votes to get the bill past the Senate. De León, however, has sided with the corporate establishment against progressives on a variety of issues and has little credibility with the Berniecrat wing of the party. Billionaire pseudo-environmentalist Tom Steyer is also said to be considering a run and has recently made positive noises about single payer and Bernie Sanders. However, he is unlikely to garner the support of progressive activists who are troubled by the increase in wealth inequality and the rise of the American oligarchy. In a similar vein, there are rumors that Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is planning to run for California governor instead of President. Given his lack of a firm ideology or principles, and his ability to self-fund his campaign, he would likely run on whatever issues poll best and single-payer is very popular among California voters.
In all, now that Gavin Newsom has shown his true colors, the conditions are set for Delaine Eastin to capture the energy of Berniecrats and the progressive vote in the race for Governor.