California’s Enrollment Success Is Its Greatest Challenge

California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment.

The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised health care experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.

That has pushed the public insurance program into the spotlight, after nearly 50 years as a quiet mainstay of the state’s health care system, and it has raised concerns about California’s ability to meet the increased demand for health care.

Even as sign-ups continue, state health officials are struggling to figure out how to serve a staggering number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries while also improving their health and keeping costs down. Many are chronically ill and have gone without insurance or regular care for years, and some new enrollees have higher expectations than in the past.

Medi-Cal is the largest version of the nation’s Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people. Created as an anti-poverty program in 1965, Medicaid for years primarily served families, seniors and people with disabilities. Now, in the states that chose to expand their programs, the coverage is available to single adults without children and to those who make slightly higher incomes.

Real questions remain, however, about whether California is up to the task of covering so many more people and about whether it has the health care infrastructure to handle the needs of the new enrollees. The costs to the state will be significant.

Read full Kaiser Health News article here…