With Becerra as HHS Pick, California Plots More Progressive Health Care Agenda

California healthcare

SACRAMENTO — President-elect Joe Biden didn’t back “Medicare for All” during his campaign.

Yet his choice of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to serve in the nation’s top health care post is fueling California lawmakers’ most progressive health care dreams, including pursuing a government-run single-payer system at the state level

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“Now it’s much more real, and it energizes me in terms of pushing for single-payer now,” said state Assembly member Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), who is considering spearheading a new single-payer campaign next year — a move he argues is more plausible under the Biden-Harris administration, with Becerra at the helm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It’s not good enough to just say that we believe health care is a human right. We’re now obligated to act,” Kalra said.

Across California, Democrats are changing their political calculus for what could be possible if Becerra, 62, is confirmed to the powerful position. After nearly four years of battling President Donald Trump and federal policies they view as unfriendly, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democratic leaders welcome a strong ally who could help make California a laboratory for progressive ideas. He would set the agenda for key federal health care agencies, which have broad authority to steer more money to states and approve their ambitious health care proposals.

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