Thea Selby, Bilal Mahmood, David Campos and Matt Haney are running for State Assembly. Illustration by Molly Oleson.

It’s almost election time! On Feb. 15, voters will go to the polls in a special election to decide on one of four candidates for the California State Assembly’s 17th District.

We have five weeks until you cast your ballot, and to help you decide, we’re asking candidates a question a week. We will post answers, with a 150-word limit, here on Thursdays. Do they answer the question? Do they differentiate themselves? Do they sound like they know what they are talking about? 

This week we asked about healthcare, which is top of mind for many right now, as we see our city yet again struggling to meet the needs of its residents during another Covid-19 wave. 

On Tuesday, Assembly Bill 1400, which would bring universal single-payer healthcare to all of California, passed the Assembly Health Committee, the first of several steps before the bill could become law. A constitutional amendment was also introduced last week, proposing taxes that could pay for such a system. 

While many progressives have supported the idea of universal healthcare in California for years, it has failed to gain enough traction to become a reality. 

Our first question: 

The pandemic has highlighted many issues in our healthcare system, from inequities in care to resource shortages and a diminishing workforce. What would you do, as an assemblymember, to address the flaws in our broken healthcare system now and post-pandemic, and what is your position on the renewed conversation about universal health care for Californians? 

David Campos, former Supervisor of San Francisco’s District 9  

Making universal healthcare a reality in California will be my top legislative priority. 

We have seen Covid-19 disproportionately kill people of color, and we have all seen that we are only as healthy as the person standing next to us. That’s why I think it’s unconscionable that we don’t have Medicare for All in our state. 

But the reason we don’t have singIe-payer, despite having a Democratic supermajority, is simple: money. Campaign money. The medical lobby, including the California Dental Association and the California Medical Association, strongly oppose AB1400, and the politicians they fund routinely stall or kill the healthcare bills that Californians desperately need.

Despite the fact that most of the candidates say they support single-payer, voters can rest assured that I will be a true champion for it. Our corporate-free campaign has not and will not accept a dime from CMA or their allies.

Matt Haney, current Supervisor of San Francisco’s District 6 

The pandemic showed us that when any of us are at risk, without care, it puts all of us at risk. Healthcare must be treated as a right in our state. No one should skip a medical visit or go into debt because they don’t have free, universal, guaranteed access to care.

The best way forward on that is Medicare for All, and I will be a champion for AB 1400 (CalCare) as an Assemblymember, alongside the bill’s author, Assemblymember Ash Kalra, who has given me his sole endorsement in this race. This will guarantee coverage for all Californians, and make sure healthcare is delivered as a right.

There are additional steps that we can take right now that I would fight for, including expanding eligibility for Medi-Cal to more Californians, regardless of immigration status, mandating effective high-quality mental health care, paying our nurses and healthcare workers more and reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

Thea Selby, member of City College’s Board of Trustees

One of the big disappointments for me is that our government did not immediately see the nexus between a pandemic and the need for universal healthcare NOW. Low-income, Latino and Black families suffer both from lower rates of insurance as well as higher rates of covid transmission — the lack of coverage should have been front and center in the debate. As we recover from covid, we must finally enact universal health care. I support Alex Lee’s AB 1400 to get this passed ASAP.

Further, we have to make major investments in addressing the shortage of healthcare workers. This sector was already impacted by retirements. Now many of these workers are suffering from burnout and fatigue. We need to work with local higher-education institutions (including community colleges!) to train more workers and ensure they have strong union protections to advocate for safe working conditions.

Bilal Mahmood, neuroscientist and entrepreneur

While California has managed the pandemic better than other states, we fall far short of world standards. We must implement best practices proven in other countries. 

First, we need to immediately subsidize free, frequent covid testing in every zip code with results back in <24 hours, and backward and forward contact tracing. 

Second, we need to establish a California Pandemic Preparedness Response Agency to achieve a 7-1-7 standard of identifying health outbreaks within 7 days, investigating root causes in 1 day, and responding within 7 days. 

Finally, we must support universal healthcare. As your state assemblymember, I’ll fight to expand Medi-Cal to cover all Californians, and expand treatment to cover mental health issues.

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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