California Takes Historic Step Toward Universal Coverage

Statement by CHCF president and CEO Sandra R. Hernández, MD

Today the California legislature voted on a budget that would allow all Californians with low incomes under the age of 26 to be eligible for Medi-Cal — the state’s Medicaid program — regardless of their immigration status. It also increases the income eligibility level for seniors and people with disabilities seeking to enroll in Medi-Cal, includes new financial help for Californians with low and middle incomes who purchase their health insurance on the state’s health insurance marketplace, and reestablishes an individual mandate to have insurance or pay a fee — a policy that was part of the Affordable Care Act until Congress removed it in 2018.

In response to today’s vote, CHCF president and CEO Sandra R. Hernández, MD, issued the following statement:

“Today, California took a historic step toward universal coverage by making sure all young people with low incomes are eligible for Medi-Cal and making it easier for many Californians who purchase their own insurance to afford coverage.

“At a time when the federal administration continues to erode health coverage for Americans and threaten hardworking immigrants, California is showing a different path is possible. With the latest budget, California becomes the only state in the country to open its Medicaid program to all low-income residents, regardless of immigration status, under the age of 26. The state also closed a small but important coverage gap by raising the Medi-Cal eligibility level for seniors and people with disabilities to align with that of most adults under age 65. Together, these bold actions speak to our state’s values of inclusion. They recognize that our future prosperity depends on the health and well-being of all our residents.

“California leaders have also recognized the challenges that too many of our residents and small businesses face in trying to afford health insurance on their own. The budget adds protection for those with the lowest incomes who struggle to purchase their own insurance, and it also recognizes that, in a state with a high cost of living, Californians with moderate incomes also need help. Reestablishing the individual mandate penalty will encourage more Californians to maintain health coverage, which benefits all of us.

“While today is surely a moment worth celebrating, we must also acknowledge the work ahead. We must find a way to cover all Californians, including the low-income undocumented adults and seniors who remain ineligible for Medi-Cal. We must further reign in the cost of coverage for consumers. And we must protect access to care in the face of harmful federal actions, including the federal administration’s proposed changes to the public charge rule.

“We are still a long way from a health care system that works for all Californians, but today’s action shows that progress is possible. Step by step, staying true to our values, we will get there.”

Contact Information:
Anne Sunderland
Senior Communications Officer, Improving Access

About the California Health Care Foundation

The California Health Care Foundation is dedicated to advancing meaningful, measurable improvements in the way the health care delivery system provides care to the people of California, particularly those with low incomes and those whose needs are not well served by the status quo. We work to ensure that people have access to the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.