Streamlining Services for Children and Pregnant Women Act Introduced to Increase Medi-Cal and WIC Enrollment

February 20, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today, Senator Lena Gonzalez (D - Long Beach) announced SB 1073, the Streamlining Services for Children and Pregnant Women Act, which will fast-track enrollment for low-income pregnant women and children between Medi-Cal and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The bill is co-sponsored by The Children’s Partnership and the California WIC Association.

While WIC and Medi-Cal have similar eligibility requirements, an estimated 87,000 children and 11,000 pregnant women enrolled in WIC do not have Medi-Cal, despite their eligibility. Likewise, over 512,000 children on Medi-Cal are eligible for but not enrolled in WIC. Together, hundreds of thousands of expecting mothers and children who are eligible for vital health and nutrition services are currently not getting the support they are qualified to receive.

“We must ensure that our most marginalized populations—young children and pregnant women—have access to the health care and nutrition they need,” said Senator Gonzalez. “By using simple technology to create an electronic enrollment pathway connecting eligibility data in WIC and Medi-Cal, we can streamline access to healthcare coverage for those who need it most.” 

Both WIC and Medi-Cal are federally mandated to assist their enrollees in connecting to the other program’s services. According to Karen Farley, Executive Director of the California WIC Association, “Data matching and outreach to eligible participants, by California WIC and Medi-Cal, is a step toward streamlining program linkages for beneficiaries.”

If SB 1073 becomes law, it would enable such data sharing between WIC and Medi-Cal, and California would join 24 other states that currently have ongoing statewide enrollment pathways to share eligibility criteria between health and non-health programs.

Auto-enrolling individuals from WIC into Medi-Cal is also a timely measure to help reverse the recent trend of declining enrollment in Medi-Cal. Since 2018, California has reported a 3% decline in Medi-Cal enrollment, and efforts to reduce the uninsured rate for children have stalled. Enrollment for immigrant families, in particular, has declined by approximately 5% over a 14-month span, largely due to anti-immigrant sentiment and policies that define the use of Medi-Cal and other public benefit programs as grounds for denying lawful permanent residence or green card status.

"Now more than ever, we need to open the doors more widely to health care access and services for already-eligible children and families, in order to counter the chilling effect on enrollment created by the current federal climate, including the revised public charge rule," said Mayra E. Alvarez, President of The Children's Partnership. "California has the opportunity to leverage programs that immigrant families trust, like WIC, to help them enroll in other programs they qualify for, like Medi-Cal. Healthy early childhood development for all children and pregnant women starts with an intentional welcome mat."

SB 1073 will build on ongoing action that the State has taken to ensure that all children and youth are included in Medi-Cal. “Every child in California, regardless of immigration status, deserves access to healthcare and nutrition that is critical to their development,” said Senator Gonzalez. By breaking down silos of Medi-Cal and WIC eligibility data, SB 1073 will make it easier for applicants to receive those healthcare and nutrition benefits.