Sacramento, CA, March 18 – The new California state budget contains a major piece of good news for Californians with disabilities. By 2024, the asset limit for older adults and people with disabilities to access Medi-Cal programs will be removed, achieving a long-standing policy goal for advocates and agencies based in California.
In 1965, the Social Services created Medi-Cal as a welfare program along with Head Start, Jobs Corps, and the Food Stamp Act. Fifty years later, Medi-Cal has grown more substantial and more powerful in securing affordable medical care for disabled and older Californians. Older and disabled Californians rely on Medi-Cal to cover pricey medication, nursing home expenses, in-home healthcare, and other costs not fully covered by Medicare and Medicaid.
Almost one in three Californians are Medi-Cal beneficiaries. But as it stands today, the program only covers a small segment of low-income individuals and families. This is because eligible individuals must not have a monthly income of more than $1200 or $2000 in savings. This is an exceptionally low rate, well below California’s definition of a low-income person. According to Covered California income guidelines and salary restrictions, if an individual makes less than $47,520 per year, they are considered low-income. This disadvantages many seniors and individuals with disabilities, jeopardizing their financial stability and preventing them from having any extra income, any savings, a house, or even a car.
The asset limit’s removal will take place in two phases. First, before July 2022, California will raise the asset limit in the Medi-Cal programs serving older adults and people with disabilities to $130,000 for an individual and $65,000 for each additional family member. The final 2021-2022 California state budget already approved an ongoing $105.7 million to cover the expected increase in Medi-Cal enrollment as a result of removing the asset limit. These amendments will qualify 18,000 new older and disabled Californians to access Medi-Cal benefits and expand services for an additional 200,000 participants currently on Medi-Cal.
Then, by January 2024, the Medi-Cal eligibility asset test will be completely removed for disabled people and seniors. Currently, older people and people with disabilities qualify for Medi-Cal under the Aged and Disabled Federal Poverty Level Program (A&D FPL) which has an asset limit of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples. The changes will make the qualifying criteria for the A&D FPL Program the same as the Medi-Cal programs that serve young, non-disabled people under 65 years old (MAGI). Unlike seniors and people with disabilities, MAGI beneficiaries do not verify for the asset threshold. This means that seniors and disabled people will no longer have to give up any financial reserves or assets they may have to be eligible for full Medi-Cal coverage.
“Removing these asset limits is an important step that will enable more people with disabilities to earn an income and be included in all aspects of society,” said Philip Kahn-Pauli, RespectAbility’s Policy and Practices Director.