For Immediate Release:
April 13, 2022
Marwa Abdelghani, Communications Manager
Gov. Gavin Newsom and DHCS Unveil Strong Framework to Safeguard the Future of California’s Children and Families
The Children’s Partnership (TCP) commends the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) for their recently unveiled “Medi-Cal’s Strategy to Support Health and Opportunity for Children and Families,” a forward-thinking policy agenda for children and families enrolled in the state’s Medi-Cal program that addresses “entrenched health inequities and the resulting disparities that diminish children’s health outcomes and life prospects.” We applaud Gov. Gavin Newsom for his child-focused vision and leadership in Medi-Cal improvements to ensure this new strategy becomes implemented and commend California Health and Human Services (CHHS) leadership and staff for their commitment to advancing this important work.
Medi-Cal has long played an important role in safeguarding the health and well-being of California’s children. Because three-fourths of Medi-Cal children are children of color, Medi-Cal also has a pivotal role to play in advancing child health equity.
Medi-Cal has historically promised a comprehensive child health benefit — a full array of preventive care, plus care coordination and coverage of medically necessary services for issues identified from screenings. Despite this promise, Medi-Cal has had less than stellar preventive care rates — both well-child visits and screenings for children. Additionally, for millions of California families, navigating the health care system has meant experiencing delayed care or no care at all, onerous administrative requirements, unanticipated financial burdens, a maze of hoops and hurdles, and a lack of racially, ethnically and culturally diverse health care providers. Communities of color continue to experience discrimination and continue to be disproportionately impacted by systemic barriers that make it more difficult for them to be healthy and build prosperous lives. This Medi-Cal strategy represents a renewed focus on the health of children and addressing previous shortcomings, setting bold goals for improving preventive care and access to needed services.
Through a combination of newly proposed and existing initiatives, DHCS’s policy agenda puts a strong emphasis on addressing the structural health inequities that often lead to disparities in children’s health outcomes. In particular, we appreciate efforts to:
- Cultivate an inclusive, culturally concordant model of care that engages a community health workforce in child and family health, including promotores de salud, community health workers, home visitors and doulas;
- Integrate community and family input into health care delivery;
- Invest in child-serving mental health services and infrastructure, including dyadic care;
- Emphasize child preventive care and integrate social services and community supports into health care through care coordination and population health management systems; and
- Improve managed care quality and equity by tying payment to equity and performance.
This policy agenda is an important first step and will go a long way in ensuring California’s children have the support and resources they need to succeed in life. The stage is set for continued investments in the health of our children and future opportunities to build on these efforts. As we work together to reform Medi-Cal and build a system that is healing-centered and culturally affirming, we encourage DHCS to operationalize this with care while also giving thought to critical proposals that serve our youngest children, including:
- Multi-year continuous Medi-Cal coverage up to age 5; and
- Dedicated funding to serve the mental health needs of infants and toddlers not otherwise covered by the Children & Youth Behavioral Health Initiative (CYBHI).
We also encourage DHCS to utilize strategies that have proven effective at strengthening health outcomes, and where necessary, refine the proposed initiatives to maximize their reach in the communities they are intended to serve, including expanding on the horizontal integration of health services and nutrition programs to support increasing enrollment of WIC and CalFresh participants in Medi-Cal.
This policy agenda is an important first step toward leveraging Medi-Cal entitlements for children and will go a long way in addressing systemic barriers that too often prevent California’s children from having the support and resources they need to succeed in life. With stakeholder input, the stage is set for implementing these important investments in a manner that will reach our shared objectives of improving the health of our children.
DHCS’s Medi-Cal’s Strategy to Support Health and Opportunity for Children and Families is as groundbreaking as it is necessary. The initiatives proposed in the framework not only show great promise but reflect an intentional effort to tackle deep-seated inequities in our state’s health care system in order to support the well-being of future generations. As DHCS prepares for successful implementation, we look forward to their continued investment and partnership with diverse organizations that have a proven track record of representing and advocating for BIPOC communities that disproportionately rely on Medi-Cal for coverage.
To that end, we stand ready to contribute to this vision and meaningfully advance the long-term health and well-being of California’s children and families.
The Children’s Partnership (TCP)
The Children’s Partnership (TCP) envisions a California where all children—regardless of their race, ethnicity or place of birth—have the resources and opportunities they need to grow up healthy and thrive, and its mission is to advance this vision of child health equity through research, policy and community engagement. Learn more at www.childrenspartnership.org.