Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, is the main source of health care insurance for 6.8 million people, or one in six Californians. During the 2008–9 fiscal year, it drew $27 billion in federal funds into the state’s health care system and accounted for 19 percent of General Fund spending.
Medi-Cal is a complex program that pays providers for essential primary, acute, and long-term care services delivered to a wide range of beneficiaries, including children, their parents, seniors, and nonelderly adults with disabilities. Because it is the single largest source of health insurance coverage in the state and a major source of funding for safety-net providers, a thorough grasp of Medi-Cal is essential to understanding how health care is financed and delivered in California. For all its success, Medi-Cal faces numerous challenges, including enrollment barriers, low rates of participation among physicians, and rising health care costs.