A record 94% of Californians had health insurance coverage in 2020

With 94% of Californians reporting having health insurance in 2020, the state last year reached a “milestone” in health insurance coverage. This observation was underlined in a guidance note who used data from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (CHPR) Annual Health Survey (CHIS), published Wednesday.

The country’s largest public health survey, CHIS surveyed more than 20,000 Californians in 2020 and asked them various questions about their health.

These data represent the highest coverage rate ever recorded by the CHPR since it began to conduct the CHIS in 2001.

During a CHPR webinar on Wednesday, Sean Tan, MP, CHPR Senior Public Administration Analyst and author of the brief, said:

“This indicates that there is a window of opportunity for the state to achieve universal health coverage to ensure all Californians have health insurance.”

The brief says state and federal government policy responses to COVID-19 were likely the reason for California’s high coverage rate during the pandemic. While coverage was expected to decrease in 2020, initiatives such as grace periods for premium payments and flexibilities in Medi-Cal enrollment, it has been easier for Californians to acquire and maintain coverage.

Image: UCLA Health Policy Research Center

Despite this record coverage, the brief highlighted persistent problems in equitable access to health care. For example, one in 10 Black and African American respondents said they did not have a usual source of medical care, despite this demographic group having a coverage rate of 88.2%.

Among black and African American Californians without a usual source of care, 27.5% were children aged 0 to 17, 68.8% were adults aged 18 to 64, and 3.7% were aged 65 years and older.

The brief reads as follows:

“… The path to covering all Californians is not guaranteed without greater attention to those who remain without health insurance. About 2.3 million Californians were uninsured in 2020; under current policies, many of these people will continue to be ineligible because of their citizenship status.

The brief encourages the continued pursuit of policies to reduce barriers to coverage, including wider use of telehealth. It also emphasizes the “critical need” for equity-focused public health interventions that prioritize the needs of marginalized communities.

About Natalee Broderick

Natalee Broderick

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