Making Medi-Cal Work for Families: Keeping Children Covered

Making Medi-Cal Work for Families: Keeping Children Covered

Stable health insurance coverage is necessary for the continuity of health care. With the majority of California children relying on Medi-Cal for their health coverage, continuous Medi-Cal coverage plays a critical role in children’s healthy early childhood development. Medi-Cal is also pivotal to child health equity as three-fourths of Medi-Cal children are children of color.

But Medi-Cal currently requires families to renew their eligibility every year. While a lot has been done to streamline this renewal process, too often children and families lose their Medi-Cal coverage – not because they no longer qualify but due to administrative barriers and glitches, such as not receiving renewal packets in the mail or long call wait times.

Data Brief: How Continuous Medicaid Coverage Protected California Children

A TCP brief, “Learning From the Pandemic: How Medi-Cal Continuous Coverage Protects California Kids,” demonstrates the success of the federal continuous coverage provision in keeping millions of Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic and what is at stake for children and families when the protection ended in April 2023.

This brief also highlights recommendations to help the state minimize disruptions to children’s coverage, such as moving forward with the implementation of multi-year continuous Medi-Cal coverage for children ages 0-5.

Since the unwinding began, over 300,000 California kids have lost Medi-Cal.

Focus Groups: How Gaps in Coverage Impact Children and their Families

As we witness California children losing coverage as Medi-Cal annual redeterminations start up again, TCP wanted to raise parent voices to speak to what are the very real impacts of gaps in health coverage on children and their families. We commissioned Lake Research Partners to conduct 10 focus groups with over 80 parents/guardians of children of color to share their experience with what it means to be without insurance coverage – even for a short period.

Listening to families themselves advances health equity by identifying how the process can work for them, not just for the system.

Learn more in our summary slide deck.

Focus Groups: Families Share What Works and How to Fix What Does Not

As all Medi-Cal enrollees go through annual eligibility renewals for the first time in three years, the aggregate disenrollment data shows more than 306,000 children have lost coverage (June 2023-February 2024). We wanted to hear directly from families about their renewal experience during the unwinding period.

The Children’s Partnership commissioned Lake Research Partners to conduct ten focus groups of families of color and two groups with Medi-Cal enrollment assisters to hear about their renewal experiences – what worked and what needs to be fixed. These families and assisters provided pragmatic recommendations for how to make the system work better. A summary of this wealth of information can be found below.


Multi-Year Continuous Coverage Budget Proposal

California has adopted a multi-year continuous Medi-Cal enrollment protection for young children. This will enable children under the age of five to keep coverage without annual renewal requirements that can cause harmful health care gaps. To meet the January 2025 start date for this policy, we urge the Legislature to fully fund implementation in the 2024-25 budget.


A coalition of organizations came together to advocate for implementing continuous Medi-Cal coverage for young children:

The Children’s Partnership
American Academy of Pediatrics-CA
Children Now
First 5 Association of California
March of Dimes
Maternal Child Health Access
National Health Law Program
Western Center on Law and Poverty

We are joined by over 60 other organizations across the state supporting funding this preservation of children’s coverage. Here is a collective support letter. 

Stable health coverage is a core racial equity strategy. The Whole Child Equity Partnership (WCEP)–a coalition dedicated to a society rooted in racial and economic justice–is working to make California the best state to have, raise, and be a child. One of their policy priorities is implementing multi-year continuous Med-Cal coverage. Here is their support letter. 

CA Assemblymember Tasha Boerner has also made a budget proposal to implement this continuous coverage protection for children.

Get Involved

Tell Gov. Newsom and the legislature to greenlight and fund continuous Medi-Cal coverage for young children. Doing so will preserve the investments California already has made in Medi-Cal coverage, as well as in Medi-Cal mental health access and early childhood development. All these depend on having the Medi-Cal insurance card.

Don’t wait – The Legislature will be developing their budget after the governor’s May Revision release on May 10!