Report: Medi-Cal Enrollment Up as Private Coverage Declines

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More California residents have enrolled in Medi-Cal and other public health insurance programs in recent years, while the number of individuals with private insurance has decreased, according to a report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, Payers & Providers reports.

Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.

Details of Shift in Insurance Coverage

According to researchers, the recession that began in late 2007 had the greatest effect on the shift from private to public health coverage.

The report found that in 2012:

  • Nearly 20% of insured state residents were enrolled in Medi-Cal or the Healthy Families program, compared with 15.3% in 2007; and
  • Less than 50% had commercial health coverage, compared with 55.6% in 2007.

Healthy Families is California's Children's Health Insurance Program.

The report states, "Jobs that are returning to the state after the Great Recession seem to lack affordable health insurance benefits, depriving workers of a major source of coverage."

Additional Findings

The report also found that the rate of uninsured state residents fell by just over one percentage point from 2001 to 2012.

Last year, about 6.7 million residents were uninsured, including 4.5 million who went without coverage for the entire year or longer.

Meanwhile, CalSim -- a simulation project at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research -- estimates that up to two million state residents will buy insurance through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, over the next 10 years.

The project also predicts that about 1.5 million individuals will enroll in Medi-Cal during that time, with the program's growth matching that of commercial health plans.

Reaction

Shana Alex Lavarreda -- director of health insurance studies at the UCLA center and author of the report -- said, "In effect, public programs have stepped in as employers have stepped out," adding, "The data refut[e] any lingering arguments that employer-based insurance is the solution to our health care coverage crisis."

Colburn Wilbur, interim president and CEO of the California Wellness Foundation, said the findings "make it clear that many Californian families are still struggling financially and will need to access low- or no-cost health coverage" (Shinkman, Payers & Providers, 10/31).


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