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Over 600 Organizations to Newsom: Protect Children’s Health

California children’s supporters urge agency to reform Medi-Cal contracts


Oakland, Calif., – More than 600 California Pro-Kid organizations from The Children’s Movement sent a letter todayurging the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom to protect children by holding health plans accountable for providing quality, equitable careThe letteraddressed to officials of the state’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS)recommends reforms to Medi-Cal contracts with managed care plans aimed at remedying plans’ documented failures to ensure the delivery of preventive care for California children. 

The Children’s Movement, coordinated by Children Now, is a diverse network of direct service, business, labor, parent, youth, civil-rights, faith-based, and community-based organizations that support kids being prioritized in state policymaking. 

For far too long, these contracts have lacked the accountability and oversight needed to guarantee even the most basic health care needs of children,” the letter states. 

The letter builds on recent research from advocacy group Children Now documenting how the current contract and payment system fails children, families, and taxpayers. For example, California ranks 50th in the nation on well-baby screenings, and fewer than half (48%) of kids covered by Medi-Cal managed care received an annual check-up. The same analysis finds that plans serving some California counties delivered pediatrician-recommended developmental screenings to just 10% of infants and toddlers, and that plans routinely fall short of minimum children’s health care access performance standards prescribed by contract and, in some cases, by law.  

In early September, DHCS sought input from stakeholders as it prepares to renegotiate Medi-Cal health plan contracts. Under the current contracts, the state pays health plans whether they deliver preventive care for children or not. Based on current payment rates, the new contracts could provide $50 billion in taxpayer funds to health plans for pediatric care over a decade.  

The State is paying health plans to deliver services to children, yet children aren’t receiving those services. It’s time for kids to get the health care they deserve, and taxpayers to get what they pay for,” said Mike Odeh, director of health policy at Children Now. 

As the letter notes, “An acceptable [Medi-Cal] contract for children’s health would establish accountability and payment mechanisms across the range of children’s health care services that are: centered on equity; rooted in youth and parent voice; and firmly held to high standards that drive improvement in child health outcomes.” 

Children Now has recommended specific reforms to the state to improve access to and quality of preventive care for children, including connecting health plan payment to health plan performance, with fiscal incentives for quality care and children’s health outcome improvements, as well as monetary consequences for failure. 

“Governor Newsom should commit to improving health care access and quality of care, especially preventive care, for kids,” said Odeh. “Fixing Medi-Cal’s broken managed care contracts is a once-in-a-childhood opportunity to deliver on that commitment.” 


Children Now is a non-partisan, whole-child research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California. The organization also leads The Children’s Movement of California, a network of over 4,000 direct service, parent, civil rights, faith-based and community groups dedicated to improving children’s well-being.