California Opens Medi-Cal to All Children


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A lack of access to quality healthcare coverage has been one of the most persistent causes of health inequity for many Latino families. Despite significant gains made under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Latinos still remain the largest uninsured population in the country.

In May 2016, the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) of California (38.39% Latino population) implemented new legislation that allows for all children in the state under the age of 19 to be eligible for full Medi-Cal benefits. Previously, undocumented children would have only received emergency care benefits through Medi-Cal and would not have had access to dental or mental health care.

From May through April of 2017, 189,434 undocumented children had been signed up for the “Medi-Cal for All Children” program. According to DHCS, an additional 61,000 children are eligible for coverage but have not yet enrolled. These children have proven difficult to “reach” due to the current climate regarding undocumented individuals in the country.

According to data from a recent survey by Children Now, immigrants in general are increasingly skipping medical appointments because of concerns about the attitudes toward them.

“Some families even have sought to withdraw their children from the Medi-Cal program because they fear that their immigration status might be shared with immigration officials,” said Kelly Hardy, managing director of Children Now. “Holding on to the kids who have recently enrolled is going to become critically important. [We hope] families will see that the coverage is a boon to their health and will not be scared away.”

In an effort to reach these children and their families, promotoras have been employed to spread the word regarding the new law. They go to the farm fields where many work, to supermarkets where they shop, and to churches. In 2016, enrollment counselors for DHCS saw nearly 400 people per month with questions about Medi-Cal.

“The majority are looking to enroll their children,” said Carlos Jimenez, a health policy advocate at the Mixteco Community Organizing Project in Oxnard, Calif. “Most people ask whether enrolling an undocumented child would bring any problems with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. We tell them their information is safe. But even then, they’re afraid.”

According to Kaiser Health News, health advocates in California are looking to extend Medi-Cal benefits to young adults, aged 19-26.

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of Latinos remain without health insurance coverage

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