Physician Running for California Commissioner Wants Universal Healthcare

It’s probably no surprise to hear that Dr. Asif Mahmood, a practicing physician who’s running for the office of insurance commissioner of California, has made healthcare his top campaign platform.

Mahmood, who was raised in the outskirts of Kharian, a village in rural Pakistan, has been a practicing physician in California for the last 18 years. He is a pulmonologist and a physician of internal medicine on-staff at various hospitals throughout the Los Angeles area.

Mahmood, a Democrat, wasn’t shy about emphasizing his intention to make healthcare affordable to all in California should he win election, despite efforts from the White House to dismantle Obamacare.

“Obviously the insurance commissioner’s job is not only dealing with healthcare insurance, but there are other insurances like auto and disability and workman comp and fire and earthquake and home owners,” he said. “But I believe healthcare is in crisis. I believe healthcare is the most crucial issue in our state and in our country at this point. And I believe healthcare costs have been going up, and our quality of healthcare has been going down.”

The primary election for insurance commissioner is on June 5, and the general election is Nov. 6, to determine who will replace outgoing Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a Democrat who is running for the California Attorney General seat.

Asif Mahmood

The insurance commissioner field has thinned a bit since last year when candidates were first eligible to file a statement of intention to run. Initially nine people filed, however a number of those candidates have since dropped out.

Arguably the two biggest names in the race are Ricardo Lara, a Democratic state Senator from Bell Gardens, and Steve Poizner, a technology entrepreneur and former Republican California insurance commissioner.

Others who filed to run for insurance commissioner include: Susan Bonilla, a former Democratic Assemblywoman; Nathalie Hrizi, a school teacher librarian running under the Peace and Freedom Party; Peter Kuo, a former insurance agent and entrepreneur who is running as a Republican; Henry T. Perea, a former Assemblyman from Fresno who is running as a Democrat; Santa Monica oncologist Paul Song; and Vigil Douglas, a sign language instructor.

Douglas had his name officially withdrawn from the ballot. Song has also terminated his bid. Bonilla last year announced she was withdrawing from the race and endorsing Lara.

The certified list of candidates running for state office, with their ballot designations, will be issued on March 29, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

Mahmood spoke recently with Insurance Journal about the race and said he wants it known that as a physician he has a good insight into what’s needed for California’s healthcare system.

“And I just want to add one thing, that I am for universal health care, single-payer healthcare, and Medicare for all, because I believe in quality care, and in my practice of 18 years I have never charged the patient who did not have an insurance because I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” he said.

Mahmood has garnered some impressive endorsements, including California State Controller Betty Ye, numerous members of Congress, including U.S. Rep Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, as well as several mayors, city council members, and school district board members.

What’s the first thing he would do if elected?

Unsurprisingly he had no problem fielding that one.

He would be to make sure the Affordable Care Act is implemented the right way.

“Right now at this point, people are having a very hard time getting a primary care doctor, people are having a very hard time getting a specialist,” he said.

His passion for healthcare is also clear in his campaign literature.

In one piece he states: “First we need to protect the Affordable Care Act from Donald Trump’s attacks — the law has helped millions of Californians and Americans get health care,” and that he “will fight to broaden” what the definition of what healthcare includes:

Women’s Health Care:

“Donald Trump has made it clear – he wants to strip away every bit of progress our country has made on women’s health care. From Trump’s attempts to reduce coverage for pregnancy and maternity care, to attacks on Planned Parenthood funding, I intend to be at the forefront of the fight to protect women’s access to medical care.”

Mental Health Care:

“Californians are seeing staggering price increases for their mental health coverage. In particular, Californians working in high risk professions like the brave men and women in law enforcement and fighting fires should have convenient and affordable options. Our federal law requires a level playing field so that mental health care is made widely available. I will do everything in my power to make sure that insurance companies are providing equal access to mental health care.”

Children’s Health Care:

“Congress has failed to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers nearly two million low-income children and pregnant women in California. With Donald Trump proposing budget plans that massively cut CHIP, and the GOP using CHIP funding as a political football, I plan on standing up and fighting for these children. And as the GOP continues to attack young immigrants, California should be leading the charge to ensure that children who may not have legal status are still getting access to care.”

During the interview, Mahmood emphasized that he’s running to serve and help people, as well as “protect the rights and the benefits of people and consumers,” and that he considers himself a unique candidate who isn’t taking money from insurance or pharmaceutical companies, or big special interest groups.

Despite all of that, he has reportedly raised more than $1 million in funding for the race.

“There is nobody in this field right now who understands really the issues and concerns, and challenges of patients and consumers and their families about healthcare better than me, because I have been dealing with them for a long time and I know the problem and the challenges, and I am the unique candidate to be in a position to solve them,” he said. “And that is what motivates me, that is what the trust of the communities and families for me, to run for this office.”