Ricardo Lara, a Democratic California state senator known for his “health for all” legislation, now has a narrow lead in the race for the California insurance commissioner post.
Lara, who has represented California’s 33rd District in the state Senate since 2012, now has 50.8% of the votes counted, with all conventional, in-person votes included in the tally.
Steve Poizner, a former California insurance commissioner who is running as an independent, has 49.2% of the votes counted.
California voters who mail in ballots postmarked on or before Election Day have three days after Election Day for their ballots to reach county elections offices. The result is that state officials may take days, or weeks, to determine with certainty which candidate has won a close race.
The latest results for the insurance commissioner race are available here.
Lara supports universal, comprehensive health coverage for all Californians.
As a state senator, Lara wrote the Health4All Kids Act. The act extended the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, to cover about 250,000 California children in families that have trouble documenting the children’s immigration status.
Lara later co-introduced S.B. 562, a bill could create a single-payer health care system for California. The bill would prohibit insurers from offering traditional major medical coverage in competition with the universal health coverage program, according to a copy of the bill text. Because the proposed program would cover dental care, vision care, chiropractic care, home health care and acupuncture, the bill might also ban the sale of some kinds of supplemental health insurance products, such as dental insurance, vision insurance, alternative health care insurance, and long-term care insurance that covers home health care.
Members of the California state Senate passed S.B. 562 by a 23-14 vote on June 1, 2017. California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon declined to have the Assembly act on the bill. Rendon said the bill was incomplete, according to a statement Rendon released in June 2017.
If Lara wins, he is expected to work with the incoming governor, Gavin Newsom, and the state legislature on health care. Health care came up as a top issue in polling, a close observer of the California race told ThinkAdvisor.
Lara — who was endorsed by outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown, as well as by the Union of Health Care Professionals and the United Farm Workers of America — has also been talking about the possible effects of wildfires and climate-caused events on Californians’ health.
As a member of the Senate Insurance Committee, Lara participated in a legislative hearing on wildfires late last month.
Lara has pledged in his campaign materials to support consumers, patients, working families and vulnerable populations. His platform also includes efforts to improve infrastructure and education.
Lara says he believes he was the first openly gay person of color elected to the California Senate.
In an official ballot statement, Lara notes that his father was a factory worker. He says his parents believed in the value of having insurance to protect their modest property. He states that, as his parents aged, “they sacrificed a little more to buy life insurance. They did it because they knew they were one accident, one fire, one burglary, one serious illness away from losing everything they had worked for.”
Poizner, meanwhile, is aiming for his second stint as California’s top insurance regulator.
When Poizner served in that post from 2007 to 2011, he identified himself as a Republican.
The founder of several technology companies, Poizner was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee.
Poizner is running on a platform that includes promises to address threats such as cybercrime, high health care costs, wildfires and mudslides.
In his campaign statement, Poizner says that the state’s top insurance regulatory post requires “fierce independence from insurance companies and partisan party politics. With your support, I will be the first Independent to get elected statewide in California history. This will pave a path for others who are tired of partisan bickering and divisiveness.”
Poizner says that, in his first term as insurance commissioner, he recovered $30 million for wildfire victims who were shortchanged by insurance companies, cut the California Department of Insurance budget by $17 million without layoffs, helped consumers get health insurance back after wrongful policy cancellations, and arrested more than 3,000 people for insurance fraud.
As a businessman, Poizner founded SnapTrack, a company that integrated GPS receivers with cell phones.
— With assistance from Allison Bell.
— Read 5 California Annuity Bills to Watch, on ThinkAdvisor.