Medi-Cal, the state’s version of the Medicaid health insurance program for low-income residents, has embarked on a 14-month effort to reexamine the eligibility of its nearly 15.8 million members. It is part of the massive “unwinding” being undertaken by all state Medicaid programs after three pandemic years during which their rolls swelled. States had agreed, in exchange for extra funding from the feds, not to boot anyone except in cases such as fraud, death, or a move out of state.
On April 1, Medicaid restarted the annual eligibility checks that had been the norm before the pandemic. It will be the biggest shake-up in U.S. health coverage since the Affordable Care Act, though it cuts the opposite way: Between 8 million and 24 million people will likely be bounced from Medicaid nationally, including an estimated 2 million to 3 million in California.
To minimize the number of enrollees dropped unnecessarily, California’s Department of Health Care Services, which runs Medi-Cal, has launched a $25 million advertising and outreach campaign that will send messages in 19 languages. The department is enlisting the assistance of nearly everyone who has contact with Medi-Cal enrollees: county offices, health plans, medical providers, advocacy groups, and volunteers. And it got $146 million in supplemental funding to help counties cope with the unprecedented number of renewal decisions.