Health care

UCSF pharmacy student Connie Chen, right, administers a flu vaccine to Yvonne Predium, left, during a free drop-in flu shot clinic at Santa Clara County fair grounds on Oct. 17, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
UCSF pharmacy student Connie Chen, right, administers a flu vaccine to Yvonne Predium, left, during a free drop-in flu shot clinic at Santa Clara County fair grounds on Oct. 17, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

It’s easy to forget after a year and a half of a deadly global pandemic, but Newsom’s 2018 campaign was chock full of big health care policy promises that had nothing to do with COVID-19. Among them were a state-funded single-payer health care, lower prescription drug prices and a comprehensive statewide plan to care for aging Californians.

Most of those plans have been slow to get off the ground. That’s in part due to COVID, but also to the governor’s habit of setting big, audacious goals that aren’t always easy to deliver. In the meantime, Newsom has overseen some changes to the state’s health care system that are fairly significant. 

What he’s done:

  • Expand Medi-Cal for undocumented residents: For years, one of the top items on California progressives’ wish list has to been to make Medi-Cal, the publicly funded health insurance program, available to the largest group of uninsured people: undocumented immigrants. In 2019, Newsom signed a law letting young adults as old as 26 sign up. And this year’s budget covers those 50 and older
  • Boost Obamacare subsidies: Few states embraced the Affordable Care Act like California. In 2019, Newsom proposed a few enhancements: Though Congress stripped the federal law of the mandate to get insurance, California would add its own. The state also made roughly 1 million more Californians eligible for subsidies through the state insurance marketplace.

What he hasn’t:

  • Enact single-payer health care: Few campaign proposals generated as much attention — and as much heat — as Newsom’s 2018 pledge to bring state- funded health insurance for all Californians. So far, the governor has assembled a task force to look into how to get to universal coverage, but he was silent on last year’s single-payer proposal in the Legislature.
  • Lower health care costs: On his first day in office, Newsom signed an executive order directing state agencies to collaborate on purchasing prescription drugs and last year he signed a bill enabling the state to produce its own generic drugs. But the state has yet to get into the pharmaceutical business and likely won’t for years. And last year alone, manufacturers reported price increases of more than 16% on more than 1,200 prescription drugs to state regulators.

CalMatters reporter Ana B. Ibarra contributed to this story.