As we begin the third Covered California open enrollment period, we now have new data to show how well we have done so far in reducing the number of uninsured children in California. The new report, released jointly by Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the California Children’s Health Coverage Coalition, shows that 176,000 fewer children in California were uninsured in 2014 compared to 2013. That 1.9 percent drop amounts to a statewide uninsurance rate of 5.4 percent compared to 6 percent nationally.
Many of the improvements in children’s coverage rates can be attributed to new coverage opportunities for children through Covered California as well as the Medi-Cal expansion for adults and the continued success of Medi-Cal in meeting the health coverage needs of uninsured children and families. Of note is that the Medi-Cal expansion for parents led to more children enrolling in Medi-Cal coverage, known as the “welcome mat” effect—when parents are eligible for coverage, they are more likely to enroll their eligible children. The increase in coverage is also a result of forward-thinking approaches to simplifying enrollment for eligible individuals. For example, Express Lane Enrollment, a streamlined enrollment process into Medi-Cal for those who are already enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program), led to hundreds of thousands of adults and children being automatically enrolled in Medi-Cal health coverage because they were enrolled in SNAP.
Committed state leaders are to thank for these great strides in connecting California children and families with the health care opportunities made available by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At The Children’s Partnership, we’ve also seen education leaders step up and connect students and families to health coverage through our ALL IN For Health Campaign. Through partnerships with education leaders and others, our collective efforts enable us to reach families where they are and connect children to coverage, improving their ability to succeed academically and stay on track developmentally so they can achieve their full potential.
But we still have more to do. California ranks 29th nationally when it comes to kids’ coverage, and there are still about 497,000 uninsured children in California, most eligible for Medi-Cal but not enrolled. This Covered California open enrollment period, and throughout the year for Medi-Cal, we can continue to focus on enrolling these remaining uninsured kids.
We also now have an opportunity to do even more for children in the implementation of Health for All Kids—which will provide Medi-Cal coverage to over 170,000 children who did not previously qualify. Beginning as early as May 1, 2016, all income-eligible children, regardless of immigration status, will be eligible for Medi-Cal. It’s up to us to ensure we make enrollment for these children as smooth and expedient as possible, and TCP will work with the State to help make that happen.
The Children’s Partnership will continue to partner nationally with Georgetown CCF and in California with the Children’s Health Coverage Coalition—which also includes California Coverage and Health Initiatives, Children Now, Children’s Defense Fund-California, PICO California, and United Ways of California—to promote and enhance the Affordable Care Act for kids.
Open enrollment in the state’s health coverage marketplace, Covered California, is available from November 1, 2015–January 31, 2016. Medi-Cal enrollment is available year round. Apply at coveredca.com.