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California will reportedly come out ahead on Medi-Cal expansion

California Assembly Speaker John Perez (D-LA)
Julie Small/KPCC
Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-LA) is sponsor of the legislation that would expand Medi-Cal coverage to an additional one million Californians.

A bill to expand Medi-Cal — the state’s health insurance for low-income residents — to one million more people, cleared its first legislative hearing Tuesday in Sacramento when the Assembly Health Committee voted to advance the measure to the Appropriations Committee.

It didn’t hurt that just hours earlier, the state’s non-partisan legislative analyst predicted California would save money on the deal for at least a decade.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the Medi-Cal expansion for three years.  

After that, Uncle Sam’s support tapers off to 90 percent.  But whatever costs California has to pick up at that point, the legislative analyst believes it will be less expensive than the status quo.

Sixty percent of the people who would gain Medi-Cal coverage live in Southern  California, 30 percent in Los Angeles County alone, according to testimony by Ken Jacobs with the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, which analyzed Medi-Cal expansion with the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

The legislative analyst says the state can pay for Medi-Cal expansion by redirecting some of the money it now gives to counties to provide indigent healthcare.

L.A. County supports Medi-Cal expansion, but wants to make sure the state continues to provide enough money to care for the millions of Californians who, for one reason or another, will still lack health insurance.

The proposed expansion of Medi-Cal includes:

  • Addition of childless adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.  In 2012, that amount was $14,856 for a single person.
  • Streamlining paper work to apply for and renew coverage by loosening required documentation to establish residency, and unifying formulas for calculating and projecting income.
  • Transfer of people enrolled in county-run Low Income Health Program.
  • Extension of benefits for foster care youth from 18 to 26 years of age.
  • Extending coverage for pregnant women beyond pre-natal coverage and pregnancy-related care.