PPIC Publishes Report on Medi-Cal Expansion and Children’s Well-Being

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) recently published a report exploring trends in health insurance coverage for California children and the adults they live and interact with, as well as recent research on the effects of Medicaid expansion related to family well-being. The report seeks to gain a better understanding of the impact of adult Medi-Cal expansion and coverage on child well-being and improvements in outcomes for low-income children and families.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage expansion, uninsured rates among California’s low-income children have declined by more than 60 percent. The share of children living with uninsured parents or other adults in their household also declined substantially.
  • Despite the coverage gains, approximately 20 percent of low-income children continue to live with an uninsured parent. Among low-income children in households headed by non-citizen Latinos, these shares are substantially higher with more than 40 percent continuing to live with an uninsured parent.
  • Strong evidence from national research shows that Medicaid expansion improved adults’ financial and behavioral health. Medicaid participants experienced fewer negative financial shocks such as “catastrophic” medical expenses, bills in collection, bankruptcy, and evictions. Broader financial health indicators, such as credit scores, also improved.
  • Research also finds a reduction in depression symptoms. Medicaid covers the cost of additional behavioral health-related prescription drugs and treatment, including medications for depression and substance use disorder.

PPIC points to the longstanding associations of adult financial security, mental well-being, and the absence of addiction with positive child outcomes to suggest that children are benefitting from the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Further research is needed to determine whether California’s Medi-Cal expansion is indeed leading to improvements in child mental health and welfare, particularly among Latinos and non-citizens.

The full PPIC report is available here.