California’s Massive Medicaid Program Works for Some, but Fails Many Others

by | Mar 2, 2023 | Health

Newborns. Former inmates. College students. Expectant moms. People with disabilities. Foster kids. Homeless people. Single dads.

Your neighbor. Your co-worker.


California’s Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal, serves a whopping 15.4 million people, offering care from cradle to grave: Half of all births are covered by Medi-Cal, as are more than half of all stays in nursing homes.

Everything about Medi-Cal is massive, from its upcoming fiscal year budget of $139 billion to the expansive list of benefits and services it offers. The way the program works — or doesn’t — could spell life or death for many enrollees.

“It’s critical, from the single pregnant mom, to the extremely frail elderly population that needs a nursing home,” said Jennifer Kent, former director of the state Department of Health Care Services, which administers Medi-Cal. “If it weren’t for Medi-Cal, so many people would either be dead or would be severely compromised.”

In a new series, California Healthline will shed light on Medi-Cal’s successes and failures through the experiences of its enrollees. They include Stephanie Lammers, who can’t get her troubling abdominal symptoms checked at a clinic 50 miles from her small Calaveras County town because the transportation Medi-Cal is supposed to provide isn’t trustworthy; Carolina Morga Tapia, a Fresno woman who credits Medi-Cal with helping her have five healthy children; and Lucas Moreno Ramirez, a Los Angeles County man with stage 4 lung cancer who had to fight to keep his treatment going.

Medi-Cal is at a critical juncture as it atte …

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