Report: California Makes Huge Strides in Covering Children

For Immediate Release:
October 28, 2015

Contact: Kristen Golden Testa, ktesta@childrenspartnership.org

Children’s uninsured rated dropped by over 1.9 percent in the state; California’s children still represent more than 1 in 10 of the nation’s uninsured

Sacramento, CA – As a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 176,000 fewer children in California were uninsured in 2014 compared to 2013, according to a new report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and a coalition of children’s health advocates in California. The report found that 5.4 percent of children in California remain uninsured, comprising more than 1 in 10 of the nation’s uninsured children.

“Improvements in health care coverage for children is not only good for families, it’s good for the state’s schools and economy,” said Joan Alker, director of the Georgetown University center. “When children have health care coverage, they are able to get preventive care to stay healthy so they can show up for school ready to learn.”

California advocates – including Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund-California, California Coverage and Health Initiatives, The Children’s Partnership, PICO California and United Ways of California – and researchers at Georgetown University attribute the improvements in children’s coverage rates to the success of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – together in California known as Medi-Cal.

They also attribute the significant gains to the fact that major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect during that time frame. When California accepted federal funding to extend Medi-Cal to cover more low-income uninsured adults, there was a “welcome mat” effect as more low-income children were enrolled in public coverage when their parents signed up. Moreover, California made advances by adopting Express enrollment into Medi-Cal for adults and children who are enrolled in SNAP.

“Because of the ACA, Medi-Cal and increased CHIP match, California made tremendous strides in reducing the number of uninsured children,” said Kristen Golden Testa of The Children’s Partnership. “We now have an opportunity to do even more for children by ensuring smooth implementation the Health for All Kids law on May 1, 2016.”

Signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, SB 75 allows an estimated 170,000 children regardless of immigration status to qualify for Medi-Cal coverage. In addition, a related bill was signed to clarify a smooth transition for those children already on limited scope benefits (emergency care) to full scope benefits under Medi-Cal. It will also remove barriers to re-applying or re-enrolling and let children with severe and chronic illnesses stay in specialty care.

“We are on the right track to cover all children in California and give them the health care they need to succeed,” said Testa. “Our coalition urges our state leaders, including the Governor and state legislators, to keep the momentum going for children and families by continuing strong implementation of the Affordable Care Act and protecting the Medi-Cal program, which now serves half of California’s children. We must also ensure that enhanced federal funding for CHIP is dedicated to supporting children’s health.”

There are still about 497,000 uninsured children in California. Most uninsured children are eligible for Medi-Cal but are not enrolled. Families who would like to know if their children are eligible or would like help applying for coverage should call 1-800-300-1506 or visit www.coveredca.com. They can also visit their local county social services office.

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