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Report: Affordable Care Act should help state's low-income children

SACRAMENTO – A recent report, commissioned by The California Endowment, outlines the expected gains for California’s low-income children as a result of the new federal health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), as well as the critical factors policymakers must address to ensure gains for lower-income children in California and across the nation.

"The implementation of the ACA should increase health coverage for California's low-income children and families," said Stan Dorn, Senior Fellow at The Urban Institute, who authored the report. "However, the extent of these families' gains will depend on how effectively state policymakers streamline enrollment in public coverage programs, address Medi-Cal's provider participation problems and consider strategies to make coverage more affordable for low-income parents."

The report also finds outdated and cumbersome eligibility requirements can burden applicants and prevent eligible families from enrolling in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families, the existing public health care programs for low-income Californians, according to a news release from the endowment. Moreover, limited Medi-Cal provider reimbursements could reduce access to care for existing and newly eligible participants, the release said. Reducing providers’ administrative burdens and improving access to Medi-Cal and Healthy Families may be possible through targeted rate increases, increasing the use of telemedicine, and strengthening the capacity and broadening the scope of practice for safety-net providers.

Specifically, the report found that the ACA will improve health care for California’s low-income children in three ways: · Previously uninsured, low-income parents will gain coverage and access to care, thus improving their children’s likelihood of coverage and access to care; · Children who currently qualify will be more likely to enroll in Medi-Cal and Healthy Families due to expanded outreach programs; and· Uninsured children who are currently ineligible for assistance will receive coverage due to new subsidies. However, the extent of the possible gains could be limited by several factors, including:· The system California uses to determine Medi-Cal eligibility;· The provider network that serves low-income communities;· The accessibility and affordability of subsidized coverage in the exchange; and· The possible end of certain federal allotments after 2015.

Today in California, three million lower-income children participate in Medi-Cal and 825,000 children participate in Healthy Families. While the state-run programs cover over 80 percent of eligible children, more than two-thirds of the children eligible for these programs aren’t enrolled, according to the news release.

To view the study:

The endowment has given a grant to the Sun-Star for a health care reporter.--Sun-Star Staff