The man California will depend on to strike back at Republican efforts in Washington, D.C. to whittle away the Affordable Care Act and push for a single-payer health plan will be former state Sen. Ricardo Lara, the first Latino and the first openly LGBTQ person to serve as Insurance Commissioner.
“To Gov. Newsom, I am excited to be your partner in expanding affordable healthcare for every single Californian,” said Lara during his Jan. 7 swearing-in ceremony at The Bank. “There is nothing we cannot achieve with our new common agenda.”
Lara took office as the eighth Insurance Commissioner of California, a position voters created in 1988. He is the first openly LGBTQ person to be elected to statewide office in California.
Lara was first elected to the state legislature in 2010 and represented the 33rd Senate District from 2012 to 2018.
In the Senate, Lara won health care for more than 250,000 Californian children regardless of their immigration status and introduced universal health care legislation.
“You are keeping your commitment on single payer. Together we will take on the cost crisis, including prescription drug prices,” said Lara of working with the new administration to expand access to healthcare. “And under your leadership, I am ready to build on our efforts and commitment to Health4All.”
“My department stands ready for your California4All vision,” Lara added.
Lara also pledged to confront climate-fueled wildfires and fight fraud.
“California’s Department of Insurance is the largest and most important state consumer protection agency in America,” said Lara. “We are the department of fair deals, the department of fresh starts, the department of rebuilding your home, the department of protecting your investment, the department of the sun will come out tomorrow. In short, we are the department of hope and we have never been more important.”
Lara pledged to protect the victims of wildfires and other disasters, defend all Californians from the threat of climate change and insurance scams, and promote innovation and technology.
“Our seniors, people living in poverty, and immigrant communities are targets of con artists and scams. Our entrepreneurs face economic uncertainty. Millions of us live one emergency room visit away from financial ruin,” Lara said. “We cannot deny that with climate change, California faces a threat like never before.”
“When I started my campaign for Insurance Commissioner, I pledged to help lead this fight. But I cannot do it alone,” said Lara.
During his address, Lara announced the creation of the Deputy Commissioner of Climate and Sustainability, a first for the department, to work with environmental and industry leaders to bring innovative solutions.
“Like climate change, technology is touching every aspect of our lives. We need to embrace new technology to improve access, affordability and privacy, while promoting creativity and allowing innovation to transform the industry,” Lara said, adding that his department will stay at the forefront of the discussion on technology to maintain the lead in the race for innovation.
Lara also asked the insurance industry to joint him in the fight against extreme disasters linked to climate change.
“We need bold action to ensure our communities adapt and are resilient to the new reality,” Lara said. “There is no other industry that has the necessary expertise to ensure that California is prepared to mitigate and reduce risk to our communities and environment.”
“Our planet can’t wait. I am ready and I hope you are too,” Lara said.
Lara said he didn’t run for Insurance Commissioner to make history first openly LGBTQ+ person to be elected to statewide office in California, but “I ran to make a difference in the lives of millions of Californians.”
“Today we shattered the pink ceiling. Because of you, this door is opened forever,” Lara said. “It is the privilege of a lifetime. And I thank you.”
Lara, the son of immigrant parents from México, took oath on a facsimile of California’s first Constitution from 1849 in its original Spanish translation.