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Low-income Families Could Soon Lose Essential Healthcare Coverage

— May 21, 2024

California has until the end of October to extend current programs or find suitable alternatives.

The state of California is facing a mounting healthcare crisis with an estimated 300,000 children at risk of losing their insurance coverage in the coming months. State legislators are currently racing against time to prevent a massive failure in the system that would limit access to affordable care for a large number of low-income families.

Deadlines are looming that could result in the expiration of federal waivers which enabled the state to expand coverage to low-income families over and above federal limits. Advocates, led by California’s Health and Human Services Agency, have been working hard to find alternative solutions before October 31.

“The healthcare crisis underscores the urgent need for comprehensive healthcare reform,” said Maria Garcia, Executive Director of Children’s Health Advocates California. “We cannot afford to overlook the needs of our most vulnerable children, and we urge policymakers to take swift action to protect their access to essential medical services.”

A fervent push for a new waiver to be issued, or at the very least an extension of the existing waivers, is underway. If suitable options aren’t identified within the timeframe, families will lose coverage and a larger financial burden will eventually be placed on the state.

Low-income Families Could Soon Lose Essential Healthcare Coverage
Photo by Los Muertos Crew from Pexels

“The potential loss of coverage for 300,000 children is a crisis we cannot afford to ignore,” said Dr. Maria Martinez, a pediatrician at Los Angeles Children’s Hospital. “Without insurance, families may delay seeking necessary medical care, leading to worsened health outcomes and increased healthcare costs in the long run.”

Children who fall under the umbrella of the Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for essential medical services could be left without refills on their prescriptions, essential check-ups and proper monitoring of ongoing conditions. Established in 1997 as part of the Balanced Budget Act, CHIP provides coverage to eligible children and pregnant women who don’t qualify for traditional Medicaid services and cannot afford private insurance.

Governor Xavier Becerra said, “Every child deserves access to quality healthcare, regardless of their family’s income or circumstances. We cannot afford to let our children fall through the gaps in our healthcare system.”

Access to medical care has already been an issue for many children and their families, especially those who are low-income, in recent years due to the COVID pandemic, making the importance of prioritizing access and affordability has even greater.

“The pandemic highlighted the critical need for affordable healthcare coverage for all Californians,” noted Maria Sanchez, a healthcare advocate with Health Access California. “Expanding access to Medicaid and implementing cost-sharing subsidies are essential steps to ensuring that no one falls through the gaps in our healthcare system.” Without these steps, the crisis will only get worse.

Much as yet to be determined in coming weeks as critical decisions will soon need to be made to preserve critical and often life-saving healthcare protections for the state’s most vulnerable residents. The decision not to extend these programs will ultimately have far-reaching implications for not only thousands of Californians but for the entire state itself.


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