By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Thousands of income-eligible Californians age 50 and older now qualify for Medi-Cal coverage under a change that took effect Sunday.
Medi-Cal is the state’s Medicaid program for low-income individuals and others who qualify based on their age, disability, or living in a skilled nursing or intermediate care home. More than 13 million Californians relied on the program last year for health coverage regardless of immigration status, according to a 2021 report from the California Health Care Foundation. The Department of Health Care Services lists total enrollment at 14.4 million in February, 2022.
Under the new expansion, an estimated 185,000 Californians who are 50 and older are now eligible for the program, regardless of their immigration status, according to the governor’s office.
“This is an investment in our people, our economy, and our future. But we’re not stopping there,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “California is on the path to expand Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age or immigration status, providing the most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country.”
The expansion comes as a result of legislation signed by Gov. Newsom last year.
The governor’s budget proposal includes $52.5 million in fiscal year 2021-2022 and $589.8 million in fiscal year 2022-2023 to support the expansion costs, the Department of Health Care Services told The Center Square in an email. DHCS estimates that $104.7 million of the total cost will be reimbursed by the federal government “for qualifying emergency and pregnancy-related services.”
The governor’s proposed budget also includes $71.6 million in state funds in the coming fiscal year for this population in the In-Home Supportive Services program, according to DHCS.
This is not the first time California has moved to expand Medi-Cal eligibility based on age. In 2016, children and teens under age 19 became eligible for full-scope Medi-Cal coverage, and in 2020, that coverage was expanded to individuals 19 to 25, regardless of immigration status.
“These Californians now have a place where they can coordinate all of their medical, dental, mental, and substance use disorder needs, and a primary care physician to better manage their health conditions,” State Medicaid Director Jacey Cooper said in a statement. “Everyone benefits from ensuring access for all Californians, and many of us know someone who depends on Medi-Cal for vital health coverage.”
Gov. Newsom has proposed a further expansion of Medi-Cal eligibility in the 2022-2023 budget, which would offer Medi-Cal coverage to income-eligible adults ages 26 to 49, regardless of immigration status, no sooner than January 2024. His office estimates this expansion could apply to more than 700,000 adults and make Medi-Cal available to all income-eligible Californians.