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.
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.
Amy Adams is a senior program officer for CHCF’s Improving Access team, which works to improve access to coverage and care for low-income Californians.
Prior to joining the foundation, Amy worked for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), leading a range of state and federal health care policy and research efforts. Her most recent work there focused on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), analyzing regulations and developing policy positions. Prior to that, she led a team working on Medicaid policy issues in California and other states, including public hospital and long-term care financing issues. Amy also brings program evaluation and assessment experience through her previous work as deputy director of a nonprofit research and policy organization and a private consultant to foundations, government agencies, and nonprofits. She received a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Yale College and a master’s degree in social welfare from the University of California, Berkeley.