Biweekly Briefing Articles

Medi-Cal Expansion Vital to Ensuring Healthy Communities

Access to health care is vital to a healthy society, and to ensure that those in our local communities can see a doctor when necessary, it’s imperative that they have coverage. 

Last week’s signed state budget includes expansion of full-scope Medi-Cal coverage to beneficiaries ages 26-49, regardless of immigration status, starting no later than Jan. 1, 2024. This makes California the first state in the nation to offer health insurance to all undocumented residents and is another step toward ensuring that those in our communities are covered. 

This move comes on the heels of the older adult expansion that took effect May 1 and added full-scope Medi-Cal coverage for approximately 185,000 individuals aged 50 or older who were already enrolled in restricted scope Medi-Cal, which only provides emergency and pregnancy-related care.  

In addition to expansion, as of July 1, the asset limit for Medi-Cal was increased to $130,000 for one person and $65,000 for each additional person up to 10 in a household. In January 2024, the asset limit will be eliminated for all Medi-Cal enrollees. By increasing the asset limits (and eliminating them in the future), low-income aged and disabled individuals will have the opportunity to develop a financial safety net by saving money for rent, auto and house repairs, financial emergencies, etc. Additional details are available on the Department of Health Care Services website

To see just how vital these Medi-Cal changes are, one only needs to look at the latest report from the Insure the Uninsured Project (ITUP), which shows that as of April 2022, total Medi-Cal enrollment in San Diego County is 991,503 or 30.1% (24,262 or 2.4% are undocumented). In Imperial County, 101,693 or 56.6% are enrolled in Medi-Cal (470 or 0.5% are undocumented). And enrollment numbers are only expected to grow regionally as more residents become eligible for the program.  

Next week, the ITUP San Diego Regional Workgroup will bring together regional stakeholders, including community-based organizations and the local health care delivery system, for a discussion on policy updates — including how providers are preparing for the upcoming Medi-Cal coverage expansion — along with a conversation on another big Medi-Cal change, California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM). After a year-long delay due to COVID-19, the state is moving ahead with the implementation of CalAIM, designed to align all elements of Medi-Cal into a system that is standardized, simplified, and focused on helping enrollees live healthier lives.  

The pandemic has shown us the importance of access to basic health care. The removal of immigration status as a barrier to health insurance, along with the implementation of CalAIM, will help ensure the health and well-being of residents throughout California, and specifically here in San Diego and Imperial counties.