Report: California Children at Risk of Losing Health Coverage

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
Research shows that kids who get health coverage and stay covered have better health and economic outcomes. Photo Credit: AnnaStills / Adobestock

Two million children and adults in California could lose health-insurance coverage over the next year – as the state winds down the continuous-coverage requirements in place during COVID, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

The pandemic health emergency officially ends May 1, but on April 1, California will start re-determining eligibility for 50-million people on Medi-Cal.

Mike Odeh, senior director of health with the nonprofit Children Now, said recipients must make sure the program has their current address.

“The state has been proactive in asking families to make sure that their contact information is up to date. And we know that they have launched a campaign,” Odeh said. “So families can visit to sign up for email and text message alerts with updates about medical renewals.”

Children who are still eligible could lose coverage if the renewal notice goes to the wrong address or if there is an administrative error. During the pandemic emergency, the state was required to keep all Medi-Cal recipients on the program. But now the income requirements will kick in once again. More than 56% of kids in California and 52% nationwide are covered under Medicaid or CHIP.

Federal research indicates 72% of the kids who lose their Medicaid coverage will still be eligible, and that Black and Latino families are at greater risk of losing coverage.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, said many factors come into play.

“Language issues may be a barrier when you have families who are perhaps mixed-status immigrant families, who have some fear about engaging with the government; families who live in rural areas, who don’t have good internet connectivity,” Alker said. “There are lots of reasons families are going to be at greater risk.”

Starting in 2025, California will begin keeping kids on Medi-Cal enrolled until their fifth birthday, with renewals annually after that. Undocumented children have been eligible for Medi-Cal since 2016.