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UCLA: Great Recession may mean more Californians eligible for Medi-Cal expansion

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Researchers from UCLA say a demographic shift among California's uninsured means that the Affordable Care Act's Medi-Cal expansion may "encompass a larger number of people than was anticipated" before the law was enacted.

The economic recession that began in California in 2008 may have implications for the Medi-Cal expansion scheduled to take place at the beginning of next year under the Affordable Care Act. According to the authors of a new brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, this means the Medi-Cal expansion under the ACA may "encompass a larger number of people than was anticipated" before the law was enacted.

State legislators have currently opted to expand Medi-Cal to an additional 1.4 million Californians. The South Los Angeles area is home to roughly 209,000 of those people, according to separate data provided by UCLA.

Further, the number of  those who were uninsured swelled, from 6.4  million in 2007 to 7.1 million in 2009. And more jobs may not necessarily help. Even a worker with wages at or near minimum wage working full time may be eligible for MediCal under the expansion (depending on family size).

The Great Recession that also swept across the country "did not affect all counties in California equally." The report says Los Angeles County, for example, saw a "moderate impact." In 2009, this meant:

  • More than 40 percent of L.A.'s uninsured were between the ages of 26 and 44. Another 22 percent were between 45 and 64.
  • More than 44 percent earned 133 percent of the federal poverty level or less; another 42 percent made between 134 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • About 63 percent were U.S.-born or naturalized citizens.

Statewide, by 2009, the recession meant that uninsured Californians were more likely to be U.S.-born citizens, more likely to have lower household incomes and more likely to be unemployed.

Unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for Medi-Cal.

The authors concluded with a note that it "remains to be seen" whether the change in demographics of the uninsured population is only temporary.

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