Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid welfare program that provides insurance for low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities, children in foster care, and pregnant women. Although Medi-Cal is supported by state and federal taxes, one in five Californians is uninsured. California has more uninsured residents than any other state in the nation.
A new law approved by the Governor in June 2013 allows the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to accept donations from private funders for Medi-Cal outreach and enrollment. The California Endowment didn't waste any time jumping on the new legislation. The private health foundation poured over $7 million into Medi-Cal efforts in Los Angeles County. It also awarded San Diego County $1.8 million, Orange County $1.6 million, Riverside County $1.4 million, and San Bernadino County $1.3 million (Read The California Endowment: Los Angeles Grants).
These were the most significant recent awards, but the California Endowment actually spread funding in excess of $23 million across 36 California counties. The lowest grants awarded were in the $100,000 range. All Medi-Cal grants can be applied to public outreach and enrollment efforts that take place between February 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016. However, all outreach must focus on these specific populations:
- Families with mixed-immigration status;
- Homeless individuals;
- Individuals with limited English proficiency;
- Individuals with mental illnesses or substance misuse issues;
- Young male minorities; and
- Individuals who are incarcerated or former inmates who are under post-release community supervision.
Medi-Cal and Obamacare-related funding has been taking priority over the other California Endowment grantmaking programs. An estimated 584,000 uninsured individuals are likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. State officials believe that reaching out to people unfamiliar with health insurance is a difficult task, particularly due to a shortage of enrollment counselors who speak Spanish. The California Endowment's strong connections to the Latino community and Latino media outlets hold a great deal of promise.
“We need to increase the number of Latinos signing up,” state Senate health committee chairman Senator Ed Hernandez told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not necessarily about more marketing. It means better response times on the phone, a Spanish-language website that is up and working, and getting enrollment counselors in those communities.”
Robert Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, said the group is "excited to partner with DHCS to fund outreach and enrollment assistance at the local level," adding, "This is an important investment that will help hundreds of thousands of Californians enroll in Medi-Cal."