California bill would eliminate Medi-Cal premiums for children and some adults | California

(The Center Square) – Thousands of Medi-Cal beneficiaries who are children, pregnant women or adults with disabilities would no longer be required to pay premiums for health care coverage under a new proposal introduced by a California lawmaker.

Assembly Bill 1995, introduced by Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, would eliminate Medi-Cal premiums for pregnant women, children and people with disabilities. Currently, more than 535,000 pregnant, disabled or children must pay Medi-Cal premiums to maintain coverage, causing financial hardship for thousands of people, Arambula said.

“During my years as an emergency physician, I saw what happened to individuals and families who had delayed medical care because they had no access to health insurance or had lost their insurance,” Arambula said in a statement. “The consequences have been severe, devastating or worse.

“We need to change the system so that pregnant women, children, and people with disabilities can rest assured that their Medi-Cal coverage will continue, and they won’t have to choose between paying for health care or paying health care bills. housework.”

According to a report from Children Now, a co-sponsor of the bill, California is one of four states that charge premiums for Medicaid coverage for children. The report notes that these premiums can total more than $300 annually for a family with two children.

Families with incomes between 160% and 266% of the federal poverty level are required to pay premiums for Medi-Cal coverage in California, depending on the state. Department of Health Services. Premiums are $13 per child per month, with each family paying no more than $39 per month.

In its report, Children Now says the monthly payments place an “excessive economic burden” on families with limited incomes and “prevent[s] families to obtain and maintain health coverage“, leading to gaps in care.

“Eliminating Premiums for Medi-Cal Families is a simple, proven way to promote health care affordability for families and health equity by eliminating unnecessary health care costs for individuals. who live on a limited budget, have critical health needs and are often from communities of color,” the report said.

Children Now also found that bounty collection was expected to bring in $64.2 million in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, but after paying a significant amount to a vendor to administer the bounty collection program, Savings to the state’s general fund are estimated at $8 million, which equates to approximately $32.05 per individual contributor annually.

“Rather than paying a provider to limit enrollment, California could better use these funds to cover more children (because more children would enroll in the absence of premiums) and ensure the delivery of higher quality care. to Medi-Cal,” the report said.

Other supporters of the bill said the measure was necessary to ensure that thousands of Medi-Cal beneficiaries receive affordable health care by removing existing financial barriers.

“As things stand, too many people have to choose between health care and rent, food or other necessities,” said Linda Nguy, senior policy attorney at the Western Center on Law and Poverty, another co-sponsor of the bill, in a statement. . “Even with incomes below $2,850 per month, people with disabilities who work part-time still have to pay up to $250 per month in premiums, which is a huge financial burden – this bill will end that .

The bill was referred to the Assembly Health Committee on Friday and could be heard on March 13, according to the state legislative information site.

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