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Hundreds of thousands of California children dropped off Medi-Cal since last year

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Suzanne Potter

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(California News Service) Medi-Cal has dropped several hundred thousand low-income children from the health insurance rolls since April 2023, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

The data show a net drop in children's Medi-Cal enrollment of 200,000 kids between April and December of last year, as the state started redetermining participants' annual eligibility - which had been paused to ensure continuous coverage during the pandemic.

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Mayra Alvarez, president of the Children's Partnership, said another 100,000 have been dropped this year.

"Some 80 percent of the people that lose coverage in California are losing it for procedural reasons," said Alvarez, "not because they're not eligible but because their paperwork didn't make it to the county, or they waited too long on the line and got frustrated and had to hang up, or they moved and the letter never even reached them."

The state of California has made a massive outreach effort to keep those who are eligible covered.

More than half a million children, half of California's kids, depend on Medi-Cal. And three quarters of them are children of color.

It is unclear how many kids who lost Medi-Cal were later enrolled in private coverage.

Joan Alker is a co-author of the report, and executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. She said gaps in coverage can lead to long-term negative impacts.

"Kids are going to miss out on those well-child visits, they're going to miss out on getting the medications they need," said Alker, "be it an inhaler for their asthma or an ADHD medication. And that really sets them back, both in their health and their success in school."

A few years ago, California lawmakers passed a requirement for continuous coverage in Medi-Cal for children ages zero to five.

Alvarez said she is urging them to follow through and allocate $10 million in the next state budget to fulfill this mission.