State lawmakers hold their first hearing Tuesday on how to adopt federal healthcare reforms in California. One big change would add more people to Medi-Cal — the federally-funded healthcare program for low-income residents.
Medi-Cal — California’s version of the federal government’s Medicaid program — provides care to eight million low-income residents.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, California can choose to expand the program to another million people. At Tuesday's hearing, Assembly Speaker John Perez will present his bill to make that happen.
“We think the notion of moving a million people into coverage is monumental,” Perez said when he introduced the bill last month. “That — paired with the implementation of the exchange — we think will be an absolute sea-change for healthcare delivery in California.”
California was the first state in the nation to pass legislation to create a healthcare exchange through which uninsured individuals who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal can purchase insurance.
The exchange and the expanded Medi-Cal program are expected to provide healthcare coverage to 10 million Californians who currently lack insurance.
Speaker Perez’s bill to expand Medi-Cal would allow single people earning up to $15,400 dollars to qualify.
The federal government will pay the entire cost of the expansion for three years, at which point the state will have to assume some of the expense.
More than two million people who earn too much to qualify for the expanded Medi-Cal would be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay for coverage offered through the state’s new healthcare exchange.