Gavin Newsom Backs Off Single Payer Health Care — After Progressives Deliver Primary Victory

Gavin Newsom (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

California’s Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the heir apparent to Governor Jerry Brown, seems to be backing away from a single-payer healthcare policy — after progressive Democrats helped deliver him a victory in the California primary last month.

Former Assembly Speaker and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was expected to be the top challenger to Newsom in the primary and the general election, with a somewhat pragmatic Democrat platform.

While Newsom supported guaranteed healthcare for all as an example of his bigger and bolder ideas, Villaraigosa criticized the universal single-payer push as “snake oil.”

But Newsom crushed Villaraigosa with a social justice manifesto called “Defending California’s Values” that promised progressives universal single payer healthcare, stiffer gun control, criminal justice reform, open borders, paid family leave, $20 an hour living wage, universal pre-K schools, and other wish-list items.

Newsom won with 33.7 percent of the vote, but Republican John Cox won second placewith 25.4 percent. Villaraigosa found little enthusiasm for a moderate Democrat agenda and barely held off two lesser candidates to finish in a distant third place with just 13.7 percent of the vote.

The Los Angeles Times called the single-payer healthcare system “a galvanizing cause” among the state’s progressive bloc. The strongest progressive contingent for single payer are the California Nurses Associations, who were early Newsom backers and demanded that he deliver on auniversal healthcare pledge.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego) commented to the Los Angeles Times last year that after years of Democrats believing it was “cool to be a moderate,” because of single payer “it’s suddenly very cool to be the progressive.”

But after benefiting from the same type of highly-motivated effort by progressives that dumped 10-term Democrat U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in favor of socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezut in the primary for New York’s 14th congressional district, Newsom has already dropped the words “single payer” from his speeches and ads, according to Politico.

The immediate problem for Newsom in pushing single payer healthcare for California’s general election is the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) estimate that the policy would cost $400 billion per year, or about $10,000 per person. The LAO estimates that funding a new single payer plan, with no co-pays or deductibles for all residents, including illegal aliens, would require an additional 15 percent payroll tax on all employed Californians.

Politico reported that Democrats are being warned that the disruptive costs of universal single payer health care could negatively impact Democratic candidates in competitive races across the nation in 2018. As a result, Democratic Party candidates were advised to use the words “Medicare for all” and not use the words “single payer.”


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