How Open Enrollment Affects Medi-Cal

Medi-Cal has no open enrollment period. State health officials are quick to point out that people can enroll for Medi-Cal any day of the year.

But Covered California’s three-month open enrollment period starting Nov. 15 is expected to boost signups for Medi-Cal, as well — even though the open enrollment period doesn’t apply to Medi-Cal.

“For the Medi-Cal program we are open 365 days a year — but we suspect at the same time we’re going to get a lot more inquiries, a lot of people [applying for coverage through the exchange] may be eligible for Medi-Cal,” said René Mollow, deputy director of health care benefits and eligibility at the Department of Health Care Services, which oversees Medi-Cal.

“We are expecting to see an increase, but we have no idea how much that will be,” Mollow said. “We will expect to see increased calls, so we have been working to be ready.”

During the first six-month open enrollment period for Covered California, roughly 2.2 million Californians signed up for Medi-Cal. Most of those were newly enrolled under Medi-Cal expansion, but about 600,000 of the enrollees were previously eligible for Medi-Cal and had not signed up.

Mollow said it’s extremely unlikely the department will receive another 600,000 enrollment applications. For one thing, the second open enrollment period for Covered California is half the length of the first one. The second Covered California open enrollment period runs Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.   

Also, because there was so much buildup to the launch of both the exchange and Medi-Cal expansion, the hype netted a substantial number of Californians who didn’t belong in either of those categories.

“I think it will be considerably less,” she said. “But until we go through it, we have no way of knowing what it will be. We are gearing up for calls coming in.”

The department also has worked on making the online application process more streamlined, Mollow said, so the department doesn’t expect any more backlog of Medi-Cal enrollment applications from the possible upcoming flurry of enrollment.

Related Topics

Capitol Desk Covered California Medi-Cal