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California Scrambles To Clear Medi-Cal Applications Backlog


The state of California says about 400,000 applicants to the Medi-Cal program are still waiting to get coverage. Administrators say they’ve made a lot of progress on the backlog in recent weeks. But consumer advocates say the state could be doing more to get people coverage faster.  

The state says it had a tremendous wave of applicants to Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act – it has enrolled more than two million people. Norman Williams of the California Department of Health Care Services says that’s part of the backup.  

“The application, volume and the newness of the system caused issues that delayed some of the verifications.”

He says the department is starting to batch process applications and it’s redirected staff to push pending people to coverage. But Elizabeth Landsberg of the Western Center on Law and Poverty says the state should presume some applicants to be eligible now, and determine later.

“We have some people who are going without care, people are confused and we have people skipping medications and not getting the care that they need.”

Both the state and health care advocates have sent letters to the federal government about the problem. Advocates are concerned about the hundreds of thousands of applicants waiting more than 45 days for coverage – a violation of federal requirements.

 medicalhealth care

Pauline Bartolone


Pauline Bartolone has been a journalist for more than 15 years, during which she was Capital Public Radio’s healthcare reporter from 2011-2015. Her work has aired frequently on National Public Radio.  Read Full Bio 

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