San Diego Union Tribune: Gov. Newsom goes big on health care and education — but at what cost?

January 11, 2019

Gavin Newsom’s first speech as California’s new governor Monday was what you might expect: unabashedly progressive, upbeat and carefully crafted to send distinct messages to everyday Californians, state lawmakers and the Trump administration. With few specifics, he declared that it was a “moral imperative” to address stagnant wages, inequalities in wealth and opportunity, homelessness, the school achievement gap, poverty and hunger — and he said the Golden State is up to the challenge of addressing each issue — in the process offering “an alternative to the corruption and incompetence in the White House.”

Newsom’s latest plan is a major expansion of Medi-Cal that would provide substantial subsidies to middle-class families for coverage — allowing families of four with income less than $150,600 to qualify. To shore up the health-care system’s finances, Newsom wants to require that individuals in the state maintain health insurance. He also wants to provide Medi-Cal to unauthorized immigrants up to age 26; they now lose coverage at 19.

Newsom’s office said he would seek waivers from Congress to allow California to go its own way on health care — and, presumably, to allow California to directly access the federal health-care funds that are now spent on its residents. This is sure to be an extremely contentious if not futile process. It’s hard to imagine congressional Republicans agreeing to what they inevitably will see as funding California’s experiment with socialized medicine.

Newsom knows the risks of government expansion in a state dependent on volatile revenue streams. With Democrats firmly in control in Sacramento, any coming policy fights may be tame. But when a recession hits, you can expect the fight over how to pay for Newsom’s agenda to be fierce.

— San Diego Union Tribune

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