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Millions of Californians in Jeopardy of Losing Medi-Cal Coverage

Millions of Californians in Jeopardy of Losing Medi-Cal Coverage 

The Protecting Medi-Cal Coverage for Californians Act (AB 2956), aimed at helping millions of low-income Californians keep their Medi-Cal coverage, held back from progressing through the Legislature 

(Sacramento, CA) May 20, 2024 – The Protecting Medi-Cal Coverage for Californians Act (AB 2956) introduced by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner (D-Encinitas) has died in Assembly Appropriations. The bill, aimed at protecting the most vulnerable by allowing adults enrolled in Medi-Cal to keep their coverage for a full 12 months and by making the federal Medi-Cal renewal flexibilities permanent, was intended to decrease the number of wrongful Medi-Cal disenrollments Californians are currently experiencing.

As of April 2023, California restarted the process of reviewing and renewing Medi-Cal eligibility for the first time since Medi-Cal renewals were paused in March 2020, referred to as Medi-Cal “unwinding.” Over 1.6 million Californians have lost their Medi-Cal coverage in the first 10 months of this unwinding period – the overwhelming majority being people of color, with about half of all disenrolled people being Latines. The overwhelming majority (80%) of Medi-Cal disenrollments have been for procedural or ‘paperwork’ reasons, meaning they have been disenrolled by no fault of their own, even when they were likely still eligible.

Most notably, California had adopted several federal flexibilities to streamline the renewal process and reduce the number of wrongful disenrollments. In other words, without these flexibilities, far more eligible Medi-Cal enrollees would have lost their coverage. AB 2956 would continue those flexibilities that otherwise would expire. The federal agency has extended those flexibilities through June 2025. But without AB 2956, it is unclear that California will extend these flexibilities beyond December 2024.

Advocates have been sounding the alarm that the unwinding process would come down on the backs of poor Californians, particularly communities of color. Although the state is approaching the end of this process, redeterminations are an annual procedure for the Medi-Cal program – meaning that unless protections are put in place, these wrongful disenrollments will continue and be far worse without continuing existing flexibilities. AB 2956 was one last effort to put protections in place. However, today the Legislature held this bill on suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Coupled with the proposed cuts in the state budget to enrollment navigators, California leaves millions more at risk of wrongfully losing coverage, potentially increasing poverty and negative health outcomes in the state.

“I am disappointed that AB 2956, a bill that would have helped many Californians retain health coverage, did not get the necessary approval to move forward. I remain committed to ensuring that those eligible for Medi-Cal are not routinely disenrolled due to bureaucratic red tape. It is unconscionable to think that over a million people each year are not able to get the care that they need due to something as simple as missing a single piece of paper,” stated Assemblymember Tasha Boerner. 

The bill is co-sponsored by the Western Center for Law and Poverty (WCLP)The Children’s Partnership (TCP), and The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC),

“Since Medi-Cal redeterminations began nearly a year ago, 1.6 million low-income Californians, including well over 300,000 children, have lost Medi-Cal coverage, all through no fault of their own. The vast majority of disenrollments are the result of procedural reasons, not eligibility – placing children at risk of losing coverage due to barriers like submitted renewal forms not being received and long call wait times to get questions answered. Even relatively short gaps in Medi-Cal coverage can mean the difference between getting the timely early developmental intervention that growing children and their families need to lead healthy lives and falling dangerously behind in healthy childhood development. Putting families’ coverage in jeopardy, especially our BIPOC communities that are more likely to rely on Medi-Cal for coverage, exacerbates existing racial disparities and undermines Californians’ investments in coverage for all.” – Mayra E. Alvarez, President, The Children’s Partnership

“This important legislation was an intentional fight for justice. The health of Latines is in a fragile state: our community is still facing acute cases of COVID-19, long-COVID and the socio-economic repercussions of the pandemic. This means that now more than ever, Medi-Cal coverage is essential to our well-being. Unfortunately, in the wake of post-pandemic public health emergency flexibilities, Medi-Cal redetermination disenrollments have disproportionately affected Latinos. In 2023, of those who were disenrolled, 49.5% were Latino – that’s 613,280 Latine community members who lost life-saving coverage. We find ourselves at a unique nexus of time. California has led the nation in expanding access to Medi-Cal for ALL, regardless of immigration status. And these disenrollments are an antithesis to the decades of hard work we, as a state, have put in. To truly reach health equity for all Californians, we have to ensure that there are intentional processes that take into account the realities that our communities are facing. The loss of AB 2956  will unfortunately have a dire impact on the health and economy of our state.” – Dr. Seciah Aquino, Executive Director, Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

“We are deeply disappointed that AB 2956 is not moving forward. The failure to permanently extend temporary, innovative fixes that eliminate burdensome administrative barriers means California is turning back the clock and resuscitating a bureaucratic process that stripped health coverage from thousands of people every month.” – Linda Nguy, Associate Director of Policy Advocacy, Western Center for Law and Poverty

“Failing to move forward with AB 2956 is a failure to better protect the most underserved Californians. The restart of the renewals process in the state has provided an incredible opportunity to improve our Medi-Cal eligibility and enrollment systems at a crucial time when millions of residents’ coverage has not been renewed for several years since the start of the Public Health Emergency. Preventing further efforts to enact stronger and improved policies amidst the current momentum on improving Medi-Cal eligibility processes is a huge missed opportunity to mitigate loss of coverage and prevent deeper inequities among underserved communities in California.” – Skyler M. Rosellini, Assistant Director of California Policy, National Health Law Program

CONTACT: 

Robert Nunez

Latino Coalition for a Healthy California

[email protected]

(805) 815-7730

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Assemblymember Tasha Boerner represents the 77th District, which encompasses Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, and the coastal communities of La Jolla south to Downtown and Coronado. You can learn more about Assemblymember Boerner at a77.asmdc.org.

Latino Coalition for a Healthy California (LCHC)— is the leading statewide policy organization with a specific emphasis on Latine health. For over 30 years, LCHC has worked on transforming systems to achieve Latinx health justice. We pride ourselves in translating community solutions into equitable policy and lasting systemic change.

The Children’s Partnership is a California advocacy organization advancing child health equity through research, policy, and community engagement. For 30 years, TCP has championed policies that help create a California where all children have the resources and opportunities they need to be healthy and thrive.

Through the lens of economic and racial justice, Western Center on Law & Poverty  litigates, educates, and advocates in courts, cities, counties, the State Capital, and the public arena to secure just housing, health care, economy, and legal systems for  Californians with low incomes.