California’s lower-income families could have to start paying hundreds, or even thousands of dollars a year for Medi-Cal health insurance premiums – payments that have been waived during the pandemic.
Once the public health emergency subsides, the pandemic waiver will expire – so groups that advocate for kids and families are asking Gov. Gavin Newsom to eliminate the premiums in his next budget proposal, which is due by January 10.
Fatima Clark, associate director of health policy for Children Now, said the return of premiums could cause struggling families to go without coverage.
“With no end in sight to this public health crisis, we should not be creating a disincentive to families to get care,” said Clark. “These are households that have borne the brunt of the pandemic, yet are still struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.”
Only three other states require low-income families on their state health insurance programs to pay monthly premiums.
Almost 160,000 pregnant people and families with children received the waivers from March to September of this year.
Opponents of a permanent waiver cite budget concerns. Clark estimated it would cost the state about $8 million a year.
Recently, more than 450 organizations signed a letter asking the governor to waive Medi-Cal premiums. Clark said the move would increase access to care for up to 700,000 Californians.
“The health and financial well-being of many low-income families hangs in the balance,” said Clark. “If lawmakers are serious about promoting economic security for families and communities, then eliminating Medi-Cal premiums should be a no-brainer in the next year.”
Last year, the state allocated $20 million to be able to offer zero-dollar premiums on some health plans in CoveredCA.
Photo Caption: A report this fall found 63% of Californians polled consider high-health care costs to be a “very serious” or “extremely serious” problem. Photo Credit: Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock