New 2016 Census data released this week has made it official: California has had the largest drop in the uninsured rate of all 50 states from 2013 to 2016, going from 6.5 million uninsured to 2.8 million, now down to a 7.3% uninsured rate. The uninsured rate in both the United States and in California dropped dramatically with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and sets a platform for additional progress at the state level.
California used to have one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, but now through implementing and improving upon the ACA, the state has seen the biggest drop in the number and percent of uninsured in the county. This progress continues to be threatened by Congressional proposals to repeal the ACA and federal budget cuts and caps to Medicaid, which now covers over a third of our state, half of our children, and two-thirds of our nursing home residents. One of the ACA repeal proposals, Graham-Cassidy, would not just slash Medicaid but specifically steal money from California to redistribute to other states in an attempt to buy the votes of their Senators.
California has shown that the Affordable Care Act is working to expand health coverage and provide new patient protections. California took another important step beyond the ACA last year, covering all income-eligible children regardless of immigration status in Medi-Cal starting in 2015. With a 93% insured rate, and if the framework and financing of the ACA stays intact, California can and should take additional steps to universal coverage because our health system is stronger when everyone is included. While many thought our nation’s rising uninsured rate was unsolvable, the advancement in California shows that if policymakers and the public are united in trying to make reform work, we can do big things.