A Golden Opportunity: California Celebrates Historic Rates of Children’s Health Coverage

by Mayra E. Alvarez

Originally published in Say Ahhh!, a blog of Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

There’s a saying in California: As California goes, so goes the nation. When it comes to coverage for children, we sure hope so. In California, almost 97% of children have health coverage – a 55% decline in uninsured children in the last two years. Last week, Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families released its sixth annual report on children’s health coverage and made clear how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is working for millions of children and families. Nationally, over 95 percent of children are now covered with quality, affordable health coverage! This historic achievement is a testament of what national and state partnerships can achieve to secure health coverage for every child, and California is leading the way.

California has made the most of the ACA to create a system of coverage that works for kids and their families. This system of coverage is made possible through both Covered California, the state’s marketplace, and the expansion of Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is the cornerstone of the children’s coverage system in California, covering nearly 6 in 10 children in California, according to recent numbers released by the Department of Health Care Services. Beyond Medi-Cal, Covered California has used all of the tools available through the law to create an exchange with robust competition, competitive premiums, and easy-to-compare options. As a result, more California families are shopping for health coverage in a market that helps families understand for what programs they or their children may qualify – private plans or public programs like Medi-Cal – and secures coverage for more eligible children.

Investing in children’s coverage matters. Research shows significant benefits for children but also for the future of all of us in California and across the country. Studies show that children with coverage show up to school ready to learn. Children with Medi-Cal, for instance, are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to graduate from college. As a result, they grow up to be healthy, productive adults. They end up with more earning potential as adults, making them less reliant on safety net programs and contributing to a strong government return on investment. Medi-Cal is a proven program that makes a difference in the lives of today’s children and invests in tomorrow’s adults.

As we celebrate the progress made to cover more kids, we also recognize there is still more work to do. With 3.3 percent of children in California uninsured, we have the lowest rate of uninsured children California has seen. However, in a state as large as ours, it means hundreds of thousands of children do not have the security that health insurance provides. California’s recent move to extend Medi-Cal coverage to all income-eligible children – no matter where they were born – will help make further progress. Using state-only funds, California gave undocumented children who otherwise would not have access to coverage the opportunity to enroll, and in less than 6 months, over 135,000 children have already enrolled!

The Children’s Partnership is excited to keep up the momentum because one uninsured child is too many. Whether someone is in a health center, a school, faith organization, or library or even at the dinner table, we each have a role to play to help spread the word about how to enroll in coverage. Open enrollment in Covered California and marketplaces across the country started this week and for Medi-Cal, enrollment is available all year long.

When everyone has the security that health insurance provides, our communities are stronger and our future is brighter. In celebrating this historic high of coverage for children, we celebrate the commitment the program has made to care for our fellow Californians, our communities and our families. We stand ready to work with our local, state and national partners to ensure this promise is protected for our children and grandchildren for years to come.

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