With Federal Medicaid Cuts Looming, New California Poll Shows Bipartisan Support for Program

Amy Adams, Senior Program Officer, Improving Access

June 20, 2017
Amy Adams
Amy Adams

At a time when American society and political life have grown increasingly polarized, a new health poll shows one thing that most Californians agree on: the importance of Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. Findings released today by the Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) at UC Berkeley show that 88% of Californians say Medi-Cal is important to the state of California, with 72% saying it is "very important" and another 16% calling it "somewhat important." IGS conducted the poll on behalf of the California Health Care Foundation.

Medi-Cal provides health coverage to the state's low-income children and adults as well as other vital supports and services to many seniors and people with disabilities. Medi-Cal covers doctor visits, hospital care, immunizations, and pregnancy-related services, and it helps pay for long-term care both at home and in nursing homes. More than one in three Californians are enrolled in the program, including over half of our state's children and youth. All in, that's almost 14 million people.

According to the IGS poll, recognition of Medi-Cal's importance transcends partisan lines: 75% of California Republicans say Medi-Cal is important to the state, as do 95% of Democrats.

Percentage of Californians who say Medi-Cal is important, by party

Support for Medi-Cal spans the entire state: In every region of California, at least 80% of respondents consider the program important to the state. In the San Joaquin Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area, 92% hold that view.

Percentage of Californians who say Medi-Cal is important, by region

California residents' broad support for Medi-Cal stands in stark contrast to the federal proposals being debated in Washington. The American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the House of Representatives on May 4, would reduce Medicaid funding by more than $800 billion — an overall cut of nearly one-quarter — over the next nine years. While the Senate's version of the bill has not been made public, similar Medicaid reductions are reportedly under consideration.

The AHCA has been described as a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but when it comes to Medicaid, the bill goes much further. In addition to rolling back federal funding for the ACA Medicaid expansion, which covers 3.7 million low-income adults in California, the AHCA also proposes capping federal funding for the entire program going forward. That's an extreme departure from the way the program has been financed since its inception more than 50 years ago. The California Department of Health Care Services estimates that the AHCA would shift $24 billion in costs to the state over the next 10 years. California, like many other states, would face excruciating decisions about who and what we could afford to cover.

Everyone served by Medi-Cal is at risk, including low-income adults who recently became eligible and traditional Medi-Cal populations such as low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

These cuts would fall hard on a program that, according to today's poll, is viewed by the vast majority of Californians as important to our state.

This poll was the first of two conducted by Berkeley IGS on hehalf of CHCF. The second poll surveyed Californians on their views on insurance coverage of mental health and alcohol or drug use problems. Learn more about both polls. Visit CHCF's ACA Repeal Resource page for emerging analysis of the potential impact of the AHCA on California.