California, USA – A major shift is taking place in one of California’s most critical safety net programs, Medi-Cal, as the state began verifying the eligibility of its more than 15 million enrolled residents this month.
Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid, provides free healthcare coverage to low-income individuals, accounting for 40 percent of California’s population.
The verification process follows the expiration of federal healthcare protections enacted during the Covid-19 pandemic in March.
The tweet below verifies the news:
— South Bay Progressive Alliance (SBPA) (@SouthBayPA) July 19, 2023
This complex undertaking is expected to extend into the next year and may have significant consequences, with an estimated 1.8 million to 2.8 million Californians at risk of losing their coverage during this period. It’s an event referred to as the “unwinding,” causing concern among state officials and health plan executives.
The impact is already being felt, with approximately 6,000 Medi-Cal members already losing their coverage since California initiated the verification process. L.A. Care Health Plan, a public health plan with 2.7 million Medi-Cal members in Los Angeles County, predicts this number could increase significantly to 350,000 by the end of 2024.
Under normal circumstances, Medi-Cal participants must prove their eligibility annually. However, in March 2020, Congress suspended the income-verification requirement to ensure continuous health coverage during the pandemic.
Now that these protections have lapsed, states, including California, are verifying eligibility for the first time in three years. The federal government has projected that 15 million Americans will lose their Medicaid coverage, but a significant portion of them may still be eligible.
In California, individuals earning $20,121 or less annually are eligible for Medi-Cal, and while most people who no longer qualify for the program may be eligible for other types of coverage, some may lose out due to a lack of awareness or understanding about the renewal process.
To manage the verification process more efficiently, California has implemented an automatic renewal system for Medi-Cal members whose income can be verified by the state.
Additionally, a bilingual communications campaign and collaborations with community groups aim to spread awareness about the importance of confirming eligibility. The state is also staggering renewals in batches to prevent overwhelming participants.
While many Californians may transition to other coverage options, such as low-cost plans through Covered California, it is essential to ensure that those who lose Medi-Cal coverage are aware of their options and encouraged to sign up for new insurance.
The situation remains fluid as the state navigates the intricacies of the unwinding process. Timely communication and outreach efforts are crucial to ensure that individuals maintain access to vital healthcare services and are informed about the steps they need to take to continue their coverage.
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