Perhaps that was fitting: The question of whether California should move to a statewide single-payer system illustrates where the four Democrats stand on the political spectrum, and which voters they hope to attract in next June's "top two" primary.
Single-payer is fervently backed by many progressives, but could cost an additional 100 billion dollars a year. That’s assuming the Trump administration would let California use federal funds that already go toward health care programs.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has prominently backed a single-payer system and was the first to be asked about in Sunday's forum, argued it would drive health care costs down, which is why it’s affordable.
“I think there’s a lot of mythology about the cost of single-payer – that somehow we’re adding on top of an existing multi-payer system," Newsom said, "when in fact, it’s about reallocating existing resources and using them more effectively and more efficiently by replacing the current multi-payer system.”
Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he supports single-payer in concept, but there’s no way to pay for it. He likened the single-payer bill that stalled in the Legislature this year, SB 562, to selling snake oil.
“When you’re governor, you got to make the tough choices," Villaraigosa said. "You can’t just say, I want pie in the sky, because that doesn’t put food on people’s tables. So what I would do as governor is to create a public option that allows people to buy into Medicare.”
Former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin called single-payer both realistic and doable.
“What we’re really doing is, talking about, yes, slightly more in the short run but a lot less in the long run," Eastin said. "We’re now paying for a big, for-profit industry that is hosing the state and the people and is not doing a good job by the sickest people.”
And Treasurer John Chiang wants to phase it in slowly and carefully.
“We don’t have to go all-in to provide all the services all at once. Let’s make sure that what we’re implementing, we can scale up appropriately and show its effectiveness in the program.”
Beyond that, there really wasn’t much disagreement during the 90-minute forum hosted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers – which, wouldn't you know, was just a block away from the California Republican Party convention.
The four Democrats all backed California’s new “sanctuary state” law and gave full-throated support for the labor movement.
But some big issues where the candidates do have different views – like education – barely came up at all.
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