Health Reform’s Medi-Cal Expansion Would Put a Dent in Uninsured Population

Even as Congress wrangles over the details of a health reform package, one aspect seems fairly noncontroversial: More low-income adults should be able to obtain health coverage through Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California).

Under current law, adults between ages 19 and 64 generally only qualify for Medi-Cal if they are disabled, pregnant, or have dependent children. However, all three of the primary Congressional health reform bills propose to extend Medicaid to adults who do not have dependent children as long as they meet the income threshold, which ranges to 150 percent of the federal poverty line, depending on the proposal.  For a single adult, this translates to an income of up to $16,245 per year in 2009.

This provision to expand Medi-Cal, alone, could put an enormous dent in California’s uninsured population. More than 1 million childless adults have incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line and could qualify for Medi-Cal. Expanding coverage to this population is sound public policy that would ensure the lowest-income Californians have coverage and access to preventive medical services in order to avoid more costly medical care later.

— Hanh Kim Quach

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