Single Payer Health Care and the 2020 CA Primary

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

In the week that Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced his Medicare for All bill backed by a number of Democratic senators, including California’s Kamala Harris, the California legislature is moving a bill to jump the 2020 presidential primary in the Golden State from June to early March. The two items are closely connected. Deep blue California could drive the single payer issue to the top of the agenda for the eventual Democratic nominee whether he or she wants it or not. That is a goal for many pushing the primary election change.

Clearly, supporters want California to again embrace an issue that will prove a bellwether for the nation. While those who are promoting an early California primary talk about being more than a money machine in presidential politics, there is also a desire to set the agenda.

Whether that is the smartest political choice in a country that has not embraced single payer is yet to be determined.

California progressives are pushing hard for a single payer health care plan. They intend to lash this issue around Democratic candidates seeking delegates in the state’s delegate-rich primary. If the California election is early, potential presidential candidates likely would have to support the issue if they hope to get a lion’s share of delegates in a state moving further to the left.

It is not coincidental that both California’s single payer plan and the bill to establish an early primary are both co-authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara.

Of course, there is a long way to go before the 2020 election is contested and much could happen. The debate around the issue will grow and change before 2020. The chief issue about single payer is how to pay for it. Will that be worked out by 2020? Many will notice that Senator Sanders’ Medicare for All plan did not come with a funding mechanism just like Lara’s California’s single payer plan.

On the pages of the Wall Street Journal yesterday, William Galston described the effort to establish single payer health care in the very blue state of Vermont—Bernie Sanders’ home state. “It is hard to think of a state better positioned to embrace single-payer health care, yet a determined governor couldn’t get close to pushing it through,” Galston wrote. Funding was a major reason.

At this stage of the game, there are critics to both single payer plan and an early California primary, and those critics are not only Republicans.

The California single payer plan ran into a roadblock from Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. Sanders had only 15 senators endorse Medicare for All leaving 30 Democrats (including an Independent who caucuses with Democrats) to stay away.

The March California primary plan is opposed by long time Democratic strategist Bob Mulholland who is concerned it would greatly affect Democratic turnout in other states that the party eventually needs to win the presidency.

While much press attention is focused on how an early California primary will help or hurt candidates for president, tied to that is how an early primary will boost an issue that has become dogma to the political left.

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