Spotlighting Racial, Ethnic & Language Inequities for Children on Medi-Cal

The Unbearable Costs of Disparities in Children’s Preventive Health Care

By Children Now Health Team

February 16, 2021

Half of California children – three quarters of whom are children of color – rely on Medi-Cal to meet their health care needs. While all children in Medi-Cal should get regular preventive visits and screenings as well as timely immunizations, average utilization rates are often well below 100%. Even more striking is that data released by the Department of Health Care Services shows significant racial and linguistic disparities in children’s access to care: Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander children, and children in households that speak languages other than English are less likely to receive immunizations, check-ups, and preventive dental visits.

State leaders and health insurers must take responsibility for the alarming disparities revealed by the data and act on the systemic barriers facing children of color and those that speak a language other than English. While these disparities are not alone caused by the health care system, a health care visit carries the power to establish a starting point for connection to the other supports and resources that families and communities need to get and stay healthy.

The Children Now health team developed the factsheet below based on the 2018 Health Disparities Report to highlight how inequities in Medi-Cal preventive health care services ultimately put the health of millions of children of color across California at risk, and the critical steps the State needs to take to create conditions for an equitable health care safety net so that all kids can grow up healthy and reach their full potential.