As Covered California’s third open enrollment period fast approaches, a new report sheds some light on the state’s remaining uninsured and finds that roughly half are eligible for either Medi-Cal or subsidized coverage through Covered California. Earlier this week, the Kaiser Family Foundation released New Estimates of Eligibility for ACA Coverage among the Uninsured, which looks at the over 32 million remaining uninsured across the country after the first two years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansions.
Nationally, the report shows the devastating impact of many states’ refusals to expand Medicaid. Roughly one-tenth of the remaining uninsured in the U.S. – over 3 million individuals – would fall into the coverage gap and could have been covered had their states decided to expand Medicaid as stipulated in the ACA.
But the report also looks at the remaining uninsured at a state-by-state level, and with this analysis we see that over half (53%) of California’s more than 3.8 million uninsured are eligible for either Medi-Cal (37%) or for subsidized coverage in Covered California (16%). These numbers show that while we have cut our state’s uninsured population nearly in half over the past three years, we still have an opportunity to continue this dramatic improvement. With another open enrollment period on the horizon, it is imperative that there are sufficient outreach and enrollment efforts, particularly in low-income areas, communities of color, and Limited English Proficient populations to maximize participation by the eligible population.
Over the past couple weeks, a number of federal reports have shed some light on the economic picture here in California and across the country. We’ve already touched on how the recent U.S. Census Bureau report on insurance coverage has shown a marked drop in uninsurance rates thanks to the Affordable Care Act. However, other reports on employment paint a bleaker portrait of California’s economy, particularly for low-income communities of color.
This week, Dan Walters at The Sacramento Beepenned a distressing essay on the state of our state’s economy. He starts by pointing out that the monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the state added tens of thousands of jobs in the past month but Walters notes that these numbers are misleading based on another report on regional economies from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:
Finally, a Bureau of Economic Analysis report on regional economies revealed that outside the red-hot San Francisco Bay Area, California’s economy trailed national expansion last year, and several rural areas actually saw declines.
Taken together, the voluminous data dumps reveal that those on the upper rungs of the economic ladder, and the communities in which they cluster, particularly in the Bay Area, are doing well. However, very large portions of the state, both geographically and sociologically, are struggling.
On Thursday, May 14th, Governor Jerry Brown released his revised budget proposal for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Despite a rosy economic picture with $6.7 billion in additional revenues, the revised budget does not restore any of the devastating cuts made during the recession to health and human services programs on which millions of Californians rely. The majority of the additional revenues ($5.5 billion) will go to K-12 education, but the remaining $1.2 billion will be split between the Rainy Day Fund and paying down debts.
Just as our state endures an historic drought, millions of Californians also face extreme needs and can’t afford to wait for that rainy day! Locking these funds away won’t help Medi-Cal recipients who are struggling to find a doctor because of low reimbursement rates or can’t access dental care due to limited dental benefits; or those on CalWORKS whose benefits were cut so severely that they remain in deep poverty. The budget proposal also fails to include funding for Health for All legislation to extend coverage to the over one million undocumented immigrants left out of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Holly Mitchell put it best when she said, “The budget is not simply a math problem…The Legislature has options to use a significant portion of the funds to meet human needs.”