Children’s Health

Every child needs access to comprehensive, affordable health coverage and care to survive and thrive. Unmet health and mental health needs can result in children falling behind developmentally and having trouble catching up physically, socially and academically. Poor children and children of color have worse access to health care and face critical health disparities, and as a result lag behind their wealthier and healthier white peers.

This is why we work to ensure all children have access to comprehensive affordable health coverage and care they need to reach their full potential. Health coverage helps children stay healthy, and sets them on a path to success.

Since 1998, we have collaborated with our partners in the California Children's Health Coverage Coalition to secure access to health coverage and care for all California children. Our efforts to expand coverage for children, protect and invest in children's health in the state and federal budgets, and improve outreach and enrollment systems for children and families have paid off — the number of uninsured California children is at an historic low. CDF-CA is working to protect and build upon those gains to ensure that every California child has a Healthy Start.

Expand Health Coverage

Enroll Eligible Children in Coverage

Every child in California in every classroom and playground is eligible for public or private health insurance. Thanks in large part to Medi-Cal, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the Health4All Kids regardless of immigration status program, 97 percent of California children now have health coverage. Half of all children in California — more than five million children — are covered by Medicaid and CHIP, together in California known as Medi-Cal. However, despite those gains, between 100,000-200,000 California children remain uninsured. Providing health coverage for children has numerous benefits in the short- and long-term. Children with health coverage can get regular care to maximize development and to help avoid costly hospitalizations and the long-term health consequences of treatable conditions. Covered children also learn better in school and have higher educational attainment. We work to ensure every child in California has access to comprehensive, pediatric-appropriate affordable health coverage.

CDF-CA advocates for improved eligibility, enrollment, and retainment systems, as well as outreach and education efforts to ensure all children who are eligible for affordable coverage get enrolled and stay enrolled.

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Protect Children’s Coverage Programs

Together, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) (known collective in California as Medi-Cal) have cut the rate of uninsured children in California by half over the last decade. Today, Medi-Cal provides comprehensive, affordable health coverage to more than half of all California children, including 180,000 children enrolled as a result of Health4All Kids implemented in 2016. CDF-CA works to protect and build upon those gains by defending Medicaid and CHIP from cuts at the federal and state levels, and advocating for additional investments in children’s coverage.

In addition to protecting children’s coverage in the ACA and Medicaid, we are working to ensure that federal CHIP funding is renewed by Congress before it is scheduled to end on October 1, 2017. If Congress fails to act, California would need to spend an estimated $900 million to continue coverage for 2 million CHIP eligible children and pregnant women (1.4 million at any given time). CDF-CA, along with our partner organizations, have published a toolkit with CHIP resources in order to educate the public and policymakers about renewal.

With child coverage at an historic high in California, CDF-CA works to preserve Medi-Cal, renew CHIP, implement Health4all Kids, and protect the ACA. CDF-CA continues to press for improved access to affordable, comprehensive prevention, primary and specialty health care for children in California.

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Implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Under the ACA, California extended coverage to millions of uninsured or under-insured Californians through Medi-Cal and Covered California. The ACA also put in place much-needed changes in the health care industry, including providing no-cost preventive care, ending discrimination against children and adults with pre-existing conditions and eliminating caps on health coverage. Read our fact sheet: How Are California Children Faring on the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act?


CDF-CA is a proud member of the Health4All movement to provide coverage to every Californian, regardless of immigration status.

California is stronger when everyone has access to health care, including immigrant children and families. CDF-CA worked with partner organizations to expand Medi-Cal eligibility and increase enrollment for all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status. In June 2015, the Governor signed SB 75 and the Health4All Kids program began in May 2016.

Currently, more than 180,000 children have access to comprehensive health benefits in Medi-Cal through the Health4All Kids program. Undocumented adult immigrants over age 19 are currently ineligible for coverage through Medi-Cal or Covered California (the state’s health insurance marketplace created by the ACA. In addition, U.S.-born children of undocumented parents who are eligible for coverage are twice as likely to lack health insurance as children born to citizens. Almost 40% of children of undocumented parents have not seen a doctor in the past year compared to 25% of the children of documented parents. Many youth and young adults are not eligible for Medi-Cal because of their immigration status. As part of our partnership with the Health4All movement, CDF-CA is working to expand Medi-Cal to all income-eligible youth and young adults ages 19-26, regardless of immigration status.

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Improve Access to Care in Medi-Cal

More than half of California’s children (5.4 million children) have health coverage through Medi-Cal. Ensuring children have timely access to care in Medi-Cal is critical to the future of California and the health and well-being of California’s children. California must take action to ensure that all children in Medi-Cal are able to see a high quality, culturally competent health provider when they need one

Improving Reimbursement Rates

CDF-CA advocates for additional investments in Medi-Cal to improve children’s access to care. California’s Medi-Cal reimbursement rates for providers are among the lowest in the nation, creating a deterrent for providers to serve Medi-Cal patients and undermining access to care for children. Medi-Cal payments to providers are only 43 percent of the Medicare payment rate for primary care services, on average. In addition, due to provider reimbursement cuts in California and the expiration of a temporary Federal primary care payment bump, provider reimbursement rates for California’s primary care providers fell by an additional 59 percent on January 1, 2015. As a result of these low rates, California ran

Why Coverage for Children is Important

Children with health insurance learn better

California children who newly enroll in a health coverage program have been shown to have a nearly 63% improvement in performance and paying attention in class.

Increased access to Medicaid has a positive impact on educational attainment

A recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that increased Medicaid eligibility positively affects educational attainment. A 10 percentage point increase in average Medicaid eligibility for children led to a 5 percent decrease in the high school dropout rate and greater than a 3 percent increase in the four year college attainment rate.

Health coverage can save lives

Uninsured children admitted to the emergency room are 60% more likely to die than children with insurance.

Children’s health coverage prevents hospitalizations

An estimated 6,300 childhood hospitalizations were avoided by the California Coverage and Health Initiatives (CCHI) - between 2000 and 2005, saving the state $6.7 million

Providing children with health coverage can save the state money

In 2001, when Medi-Cal stopped requiring children to re-enroll every three months, more children stayed enrolled and received better access to primary and preventive care, ultimately saving California $17 million because children were hospitalized less frequently. And we know that healthy children learn better and achieve more.

Providing coverage to children has long-lasting educational and wage benefits

Women who were Medicaid eligible as children have significantly higher rates of college attendance, and higher cumulative wages by age 28 after having been Medicaid eligible as children.

Our Partners

Key Partners

California Children’s Health Coverage Coalition

The Children’s Health Coverage Coalition is comprised of California Coverage & Health Initiatives, Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund-California, PICO California, The Children’s Partnership, and United Ways of California.

Children Now

Children Now is the leading, nonpartisan, umbrella research, policy development, and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California and creating national media policies that support child development. The organization also leads The Children’s Movement of California.

California Coverage and Health Initiative

California Coverage and Health Initiative is a statewide association of outreach and enrollment organizations that are focused on helping children and families navigate into affordable health coverage and have access to high quality health services.

PICO California

PICO California rallies against any policy that separates families and devastates communities. We are committed to connecting communities of color in solidarity across the common struggle of regaining and maintaining full and enfranchised citizenship. PICO California is part of the PICO National Network. PICO California and its federations are non-partisan and do not endorse or support candidates for office.

United Ways of California

United Ways of California improves the health, education and financial results for low-income children and families by enhancing and coordinating the advocacy and community impact work of California’s United Ways.

Other Partners