As the national debate on health care continues, people go about their daily lives, including being healthy, getting sick, and going to the doctor when needed. In Solano County, a significant part of how residents access health care is through Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal is California’s version of the national Medicaid program, which provides low-cost, or no-cost health insurance for over 13 million Californians statewide. This includes low-income families, children, pregnant women, seniors, and people living with disabilities. Additionally, under the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal was expanded to include low-income adults without children. Nearly 4 million non-elderly adults were enrolled under this expansion in California beginning in 2014. Individuals or families who make up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level qualify. This equals up to $16,400 annually for a single adult, or up to $33,600 for a family of four.
In Solano County, Medi-Cal makes a serious impact. Almost 50,000 people, or close to 30% of our community are enrolled in the program. This number is even higher for children. A full 40% of Solano County children have access to healthcare through Medi-Cal. The majority of Medi-Cal recipients are either working, or live in households with a family member who works. Many Medi-Cal enrollees hold low-wage jobs that provide important goods and services that our entire community relies on. These jobs rarely offer health insurance, nor do they pay enough to buy affordable and comprehensive insurance on the private market. Medi-Cal fills this important gap.
Beyond the individual impact, Medi-Cal benefits the larger community. Local hospitals are an example. County-run hospitals are required to provide services to anyone who comes through their doors, regardless of their ability to pay. If someone is uninsured, and are unable to pay their bill, the hospital must cover this loss as uncompensated care. Robust coverage of community members through Medi-Cal reduces the burden on local hospitals, allowing them to expand services, hire staff, and provide better care to the community. A thriving health care system has a positive downstream effect on the local economy. Hospitals contract with an array of goods and services. And the more people who are employed, and community members who are healthy, the more money is spent in local businesses.
Medi-Cal also supports our older adults, as the primary payer of nursing home costs. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of nursing home costs are covered by Medicaid. For low and middle-income families, even those who have retirement savings, these are often spent on basic living expenses, with little left over to pay for care later in life. Medi-Cal ensures that our older community members have access to necessary care.
Medi-Cal is structured in a way that reliably covers people, making the program an important first responder to disasters. Anyone who qualifies for the program receives services when needed, rather than the program having a funding cap, which would limit services, or the number of people who can access them. This is particularly important in the event of an emergency. Whether this is a natural disaster, or a public health crisis, such as the Zika virus, or the opioid epidemic, Medi-Cal is available to provide health coverage to the people who need it most. It may be you, your parents or grandparents, neighbors, or friends, but someone you know most likely has been helped by Medi-Cal. Luckily, Medi-Cal has Solano County covered.
Laura Sheckler is the Community Affairs Manager at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of Solano Coalition for Better Health.