SACRAMENTO — When Gov. Gavin Newsom took office four years ago, the Democrat went after Republicans on the national stage as they sought to gut the Affordable Care Act. Key to his ambitious health care agenda: Reinstating the fine on Californians who don’t have health coverage, which had been eliminated at the federal level.
It was a tough sell for a new governor, and Newsom needed strong allies among state Democratic leaders, who at the time, in 2019, voiced concern about essentially levying a new tax on Californians unable to afford the rising cost of health care. Democrats, who, then as now, controlled the state legislature, ultimately backed Newsom in exchange for a promise: The state would levy the fine but use that money to provide financial assistance to offset out-of-pocket costs for Californians purchasing health insurance on the state exchange, Covered California.