Pandemic-era protections have ended and concern is growing around the health insurance benefits to low-income Californians as Medi-Cal recipients will have to go back to renewing coverage every year to determine their eligibility.
Across the country, about 95 million people, including children, are enrolled in low-cost coverage such as Medicaid or CHIP.
In California, there are about 15 million people covered by Medi-Cal, but that number is expected to decrease by 2 or 3 million. And there are a number of concerns surrounding the proper documentation to stay in the program.
“The renewal packet that somebody receives can be nearly 20 pages. They might receive it in a language that they do not understand or speak. They might not be able to get to a post office to turn it in. They might still turn it in and for whatever reason, a county is not able to process it,” said David Kane, a senior attorney at the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
Kane adds that if the information is not marked as received, it could be enough to keep someone off Medi-Cal. Under Medi-Cal, people have to completely recertify and show that they’re eligible every year.
Those most likely to be impacted are children, and Black and Latino communities. Currently, one-third of Californians are covered under Medi-Cal and half of the recipients are Hispanic or Latino.
“Some information that we’ve seen so far available in English and Spanish, but we also know that there are a lot of groups in California that speak other languages,” said Cary Sanders with the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network.
Anthony Wright with Health Access California added that reinstating the yearly renewal means that a three-year backlog is expected, which is why health officials in the state are planning to stagger Medi-Cal changes over the course of 12 to 15 months, and they’re partnering with community-based organizations for their outreach efforts.