California Faces Critical Deadline as 300,000 Kids Lose Health Insurance

Roughly 300,000 children might permanently lose their health insurance in California Governor Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget.

After the federal government ended its COVID-19-era continuous coverage health insurance protections, about 1.6 million Californians were removed from Medi-Cal. Of that number, 300,000 are children.

Several advocacy groups have been pushing Newsom to continue offering the health insurance in his new budget, but his revised proposal on Friday did not keep protections for the millions of Californians relying on the coverage.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (center) speaks as Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass (left) listens at a press conference near the closed Interstate 10 elevated freeway following a large pallet fire. Newsom’s proposed budget does not…

Mario Tama/Getty Images

“Gov. Newsom said this budget lays out a long-term, multi-year strategy. Children’s health equity is always a multi-year strategy,” Mayra E. Alvarez, president of The Children’s Partnership, said in a statement. “The governor is making a choice to cut the very programs families depend on to raise healthy, thriving children. Instead, California will spend billions of dollars on tax breaks for high-profit corporations.”

The deadline for the budget to be officially passed is June 15, and the fiscal year will begin on July 1.

Despite the criticism, Newsom prioritized cutting spending by $19.1 billion while not proposing any new taxes on California residents or small businesses.

Newsweek reached out to Newsom for comment via email.

“Even when revenues were booming, we were preparing for possible downturns by investing in reserves and paying down debts—that’s put us in a position to close budget gaps while protecting core services that Californians depend on,” Newsom said in a statement.

“Without raising taxes on Californians, we’re delivering a balanced budget over two years that continues the progress we’ve fought so hard to achieve, from getting folks off the streets to addressing the climate crisis to keeping our communities safe.”

Many of the millions enrolled lost their coverage due to paperwork errors, lost mail, changed addresses or even language barriers for those who aren’t native English speakers.

“Losing coverage—even temporarily—delays medical care, undermining healthy childhood development,” Alvarez said. “By removing enrollment barriers in Medi-Cal, continuous coverage policies offer that stability to more than half of California’s nine million children, including millions of families of color who disproportionately rely on Medi-Cal.”

Alvarez added that 70 percent of the children on Medi-Cal are children of color.

Other groups have joined The Children’s Partnership in putting pressure on Newsom, and California state Representative Tasha Boerner has proposed AB 2956, which would create official protections against Medi-Cal disenrollments in California.

Altogether, 15 million Californians rely on the Medi-Cal program for access to yearly checkups, health treatments, prescriptions and hospital stays.

“This is not a new investment but a preservation of the state’s existing obligations to Medi-Cal children,” Alvarez said. “If eligible young children are dropped from Medi-Cal coverage, they can’t take advantage of all the good work being done to improve access to Medi-Cal services.”

National Policy Ends

Across the country, states are grappling with how to go about renewing Medicaid coverage after the federal government ended its continuous coverage through the pandemic. The change hit March 31 and has led to at least 19.6 million Medicaid enrollees being removed from their policies.

The majority, or 69 percent, of those removed nationally have lost their insurance due to “procedural reasons,” according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, an independent source for health policy research, polling and journalism, its website says. In California, that percentage was 76 percent.

Typically, this happens when states no longer have current contact information for the enrollees or if the enrollee doesn’t know or understand how to complete the renewal within a set time.

For those who find themselves without health coverage, the news can be a shock, and it can turn the cost of regular doctor visits and medications to skyrocket.

Chris Fong, the CEO of Smile Insurance, said those in this situation should act immediately to mitigate any of the damage that arises from lost coverage.

“They usually only find out that they have lost Medicaid when they try going to the doctor and they are told they have no insurance,” Fong previously told Newsweek. “The best advice we can give is if someone finds themselves in the position where they have lost Medicaid is to immediately contact their state Medicaid agency, find out the reasons for the loss, and reapply if they still qualify.”