Healthcare will Again be a Top-Three Issue in California Next Year

By Brett Johnson
December 18, 2018

All signs indicate major healthcare reforms will again take center stage in Sacramento next year – with a key question being how such proposals will fare under the newly elected governor, Gavin Newsom, and a Democratic supermajority in the legislature.

On the campaign trail, Newsom repeatedly expressed support for a path to universal healthcare coverage, and some accounts have stated he specifically supports “automatic enrollment in Covered California for the uninsured and a vast Medi-Cal expansion for undocumented immigrants.”

On December 12, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a statewide poll on Newsom’s potential policy priorities as governor. A majority of adults (60%) and likely voters (57%) identified “universal health coverage” as a high or very high priority, making it the top priority among those polled, which included tuition-free community college, universal preschool, and high-speed rail. If this poll reflects the will of Californians, political pressure for the new governor on the issue could prove significant.

The legislature appears primed to test Newsom’s convictions on universal coverage. In the opening hours of the new legislative session, two measures have been introduced to cover undocumented immigrants through Medi-Cal, Senate Bill 29 (Lara) and Assembly Bill 4 (Arambula), following up on last year’s efforts around universal coverage that failed largely due to cost concerns.

Cost concerns with universal coverage, however, appear to remain this year.  According to the Sacramento Bee, the first 100 bills alone introduced this year have proposed an estimated total of $40 billion in new spending – with Medi-Cal coverage of undocumented immigrants accounting for roughly $3 billion of that total. In response to this spending push, Newsom stated, “All of this will be whittled down and we all will live within our means . . . We’re not going to deviate from being fiscally prudent.” How the new governor resolves conflicts between policy priorities and a desire to constrain spending will be a key issue to watch in 2019.

CLSA’s Sacramento team is preparing for what is shaping up to be an active legislative session on important issues for California’s life sciences industry, a number of which are likely to directly target our industry or the pharmacy benefits system of which many life sciences companies are a part. CLSA will welcome legislators back to Sacramento on February 26th for our annual Back-to-Session Reception. If you would like more information on this event or would like further information on CLSA’s efforts in Sacramento, please contact Manny Heer (, Brett Johnson (, or Oliver Rocroi ( in our Sacramento office.