Advocates rally for continuous Medi-Cal coverage as disenrollments surge

April 25, 2024 /

As millions of Californians are being disenrolled from Medi-Cal due to unwinding, advocates are increasing pressure on Governor Gavin Newsom to approve funding for continuous medical coverage for children in his May budget revisions.

Unwinding is the process of states reviewing insurance records and disenrolling people in mass who were once covered under COVID-19 pandemic extensions. Of the 1.3 million Californians who have already been disenrolled from their health coverage, 306,000 are children. In Kern County, 6,500 children have been disenrolled from their health coverage.

In January 2024, Medi-Cal expansion began for income-eligible undocumented persons ages 26-49, and now all age groups can enroll in Medi-Cal.

“We thank Gover Newsom for his support and commitment to providing the needed funds in his January budget. We look forward to the Medi-Cal funding to remain fully intact in the upcoming May Revise,” commented Noe Paramo, a Director with the California Rural Legal
Assistance Foundation. “However, more needs to be done for children and farmworkers to have coverage. Children ages 0-5 require continuous Medi-Cal coverage to close gaps that exist in accessing care for their growth and development.”

Although California’s farmworkers who are income-eligible can enroll in Medi-Cal nearly half of the farmworkers are over income for Medi-Cal and remain uninsured.

Paramo claims the option to solve this is to open and invest in Covered CA to allow the enrollment of undocumented farmworkers and people.

Another advocate calling on Governor Newsom is Mayra Alvarez, the President of The Children’s Partnership (TCP). Alvarez explained that, during the pandemic, there was no requirement to redetermine your eligibility for Medi-Cal so people stayed continuously covered.

“They’re doing away with the federal protections under the public health emergency and now families in California are having to re-enroll in Medi-Cal,” Alvarez stated. “This disproportionately impacts enrollees that are people of color.”

Since the unwinding began in June, the vast majority of disenrolled people have resulted from procedural reasons rather than eligibility, Alvarez explained.

“They didn’t get a piece of mail because they had moved addresses. Because they were on hold for two hours and got frustrated and weren’t able to talk to someone. They mailed their packet in and it got lost. Right? These are like barriers that are no fault of the families themselves, but they’re losing their coverage, even though they are very highly likely to still be eligible,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez went on to explain that Medi-Cal is the primary source of coverage for over half of all children in the state. Out of all the children that are enrolled in Medi-Cal, almost three out of four are children of color.

Alvarez hopes that Governor Newsom will protect funding for continuous coverage so that families with children between the ages of zero and five who are enrolled in Medi-Cal won’t have to re-enroll their child for those first five years of life.

“Already we’ve seen over 300,000 children of all ages lose their coverage. So we run the risk of additional children losing coverage, particularly young children that are in this critical stage of development,” stated Alvarez. “So this continuous coverage policy would allow for the stabilization that families need to prioritize their child’s health first. And what we’ve seen is a huge difference when this continuous coverage is in place.”

In addition to screenings and immunization appointments, the National Pediatric Standards recommend 15 child visits in their first five years of life. Alvarez compared the idea of having insurance to having a security blanket or safety net.

“You know children fall or there are accidents. How do we make sure that we’re able to care for our children and that they have the right care and resources necessary to protect them from illnesses, right? God forbid something serious happens. We don’t want families delaying care because it’s too expensive or because they’re worried about what it’s going to cost them down the road,” said Alvarez. “We want them to worry about the well-being of their children. That’s first and foremost what matters. Having health insurance is part of that.”

Even though Medi-Cal is supposed to be continuous, California legislators have yet to greenlight the funding for it. This is where TCP and other organizations, families, and California State Representatives like Tasha Boerner come in. Assemblymember Boerner authored AB 2956, which seeks to stop Medi-Cal disenrollments in California.

Alvarez announced her support of Boerner and AB 2956 as they would help make sure certain protections were in place for those who need Medi-Cal and that adults enrolled in Medi-Cal will be able to keep their coverage for a full 12 months.

“For us as a kids-focused organization, we know that a child is more likely to have health insurance when their parents have health insurance,” Alvarez commented. “So we recognize how important it is to be advocates for families or adults that need coverage because that’s going to have a positive impact on our children as well.”

Alvarez concluded by acknowledging that the state of California and the Health and Human Services Agency have been taking incredible steps to strengthen Medi-Cal, reform it, and make it stronger for people to deliver higher quality services and be more connected to the community.

“These are really important changes, but those changes don’t matter if people don’t actually have coverage to utilize those services. Coverage is the first step in the door to keeping the program strong,” said Alvarez. “Making enrollment possible for people will help ensure that the investments that California has made to improve health care in the state are worth it so that our kids have access to this coverage.”

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Victoria Rodgers

Victoria Rodgers is an editor and reporter for Kern Sol News. Born in Bakersfield, CA, she received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Rockford University in Illinois. She can be reached at