Rural Calif. Suffers Most If Policymakers Slash Medi-Cal

Medi-Cal has cut the uninsured rate in rural areas by more than half for children and adults, according to a new report. Photo Credit: D Marshall/iStockphoto

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s rural areas have gained the most from the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act – and also have the most to lose if massive cuts are made to Medi-Cal – as it is known in the state.

A new report from Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families said the rate of uninsured adults in rural California was cut in half from 2008 to 2015 – the fourth-largest decrease of any state – and among rural children, the rate dropped by a whopping 60 percent.

Mike Odeh with the California Children’s Health Coalition said he’s disappointed that many lawmakers from rural districts voted for the massive Medicaid cuts in the House version of the American Health Care Act.

“Those representatives that did vote for the AHCA are wanting to turn their areas back into a world where instead of 1-in-10 uninsured residents as it is today, you’d have 1-in-4 uninsured residents,” Odeh said. “So, that would be taking us back in terms of the progress we’ve made in insuring our communities.”

The AHCA is currently being renegotiated in the U.S. Senate, but the Congressional Budget Office has estimated in its current form, 23 million people would lose health insurance over the next ten years.

Joan Alker, research professor and head of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the report makes it clear that the AHCA would hurt rural economies as well.

“In many of these communities, the Medicaid program is supporting rural health centers, rural hospitals. Those institutions serve the whole community, not just folks who are on Medicaid,” Alker said. “So, if we see very large cuts in Medicaid, those rural hospitals and health centers are at risk of closure.”

The report said that 54 percent of kids in rural California rely on Medi-Cal, compared to 44 percent in the metro areas.