The debate about health care in the United States resonates in California, considering that over a third of all people in the state rely on Medi-Cal, according to data from the California Department of Health Care Services. But amid all the arguments and partisanship, it may be easy to lose track of who exactly is hit when cuts are made to the health program for low-income Americans.
Of the nearly 14 million Californians covered by Medi-Cal, 29 percent reside in Los Angeles County alone, according to data from January 2017. Twenty counties have over 40 percent of residents on Medi-Cal, with Tulare County topping the list at 56 percent. Exactly half of these 20 counties voted in the 2016 presidential election for now-President Donald Trump, who has tweeted that he is “very supportive” of the Senate health care bill that proposes deep cuts to federal health spending.
Additionally, over 10 percent of residents in 23 counties gained Medi-Cal coverage from the Affordable Care Act expansion of the program that would be dismantled by the proposed legislation. Humboldt and Lake counties both had nearly 15 percent of residents who benefit from the expansion.
For many young people in California, Medi-Cal is a go-to program. While half of all Medi-Cal enrollees are between the ages of 21 and 64, another 42 percent are 20 or younger, according to the data. Fifty-four percent of Californians 18 or younger and 57 percent of Californians 5 or younger are covered by the program, according to data from September 2015. Seven counties have over 80 percent of their infants to 5-year-olds enrolled in the program.
About 80 percent of enrollees are not white, according to the 2017 data, with 48 percent Hispanic, 13 percent Asian or Pacific Islander, 8 percent African American and less than 1 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native. White Californians make up 20 percent of the enrollees.
Still, 61 percent of enrollees indicated that their primary language is English, followed by another 30 percent whose primary language is Spanish. The next most common languages are Chinese, Vietnamese and Armenian.
A large majority – 83 percent – of Medi-Cal enrollees are U.S. citizens, according to data from June 2014. The second largest proportion of enrollees, at 10 percent, are qualified noncitizens, a term for permanent residents, refugees, people granted asylum and others. Both citizens and qualified noncitizens are able to access the full scope of Medi-Cal benefits and services. Another 7 percent are undocumented and can only access emergency and pregnancy-related resources.
Less than 1 percent of enrollees are a smaller class of noncitizens able to access most health services as well as people with student visas and other temporary statuses, who can only access emergency and pregnancy-related resources.