Health Insurers Fail to Deliver for Young Californians 26 and Younger: Report Card Shows Alarming Trends in Health Care Access

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Despite California receiving an A-minus grade for providing health insurance to children, a recent report by Children Now highlighted significant shortcomings in the state’s overall health care access and accountability for those aged 26 and younger. The report, which evaluates a wide range of issues affecting the well-being of young Californians, revealed that having health insurance does not necessarily ensure access to essential care.

The optimization of insurance coverage for children and young adults has been a key achievement for California, with only 3% of the state’s children lacking health insurance compared to 20% in the past. However, the Children Now report shed light on the fact that further steps are required to guarantee adequate access to health care for the state’s young population.

According to Kelly Hardy, senior managing director of health and research at Children Now, the organization’s biennial California Children’s Report Card reflects a comprehensive analysis of key areas such as health, education, family support, and child welfare. Despite the progress made in certain areas, the report revealed that the state is barely passing, receiving marks of C-minus or lower in nearly half of the evaluated issues.

The lack of accountability on the part of the state of California was brought to attention by Lishaun Francis, senior director of behavioral health at Children Now. Francis emphasized the importance of ensuring that young people receive the care promised under their health insurance coverage, as many managed care plans fell below minimum performance levels for critical aspects like immunization rates and well-child visits.

Mental health services for California’s youth also emerged as a significant area of concern, with the state receiving a D-plus grade for its support in this regard. The surge in anxiety and depression diagnoses among children aged 3 to 17, coupled with the challenge of accessing mental health services, further highlighted the need for comprehensive reforms and solutions.

Efforts to address these issues were cited, including a proposed bill to trigger automatic appeals for denied mental health care services to individuals aged 26 and younger. Despite opposition from the health care industry, a similar measure is being introduced in 2024, designated to shift the financial burden to health plans and away from the state.

The Children Now report also underscored the need to address outcome gaps in education, stating that California spends below the national average on K-12 education and ranks low in outcome gaps by race and ethnicity. Considering the state’s projected budget deficit, a renewed focus on solving these issues becomes imperative for ensuring the well-being and future prospects of California’s young populace.