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RELEASE: AB 526 Passes Senate Health Committee - Increasing Medi-Cal and WIC Enrollment for Vulnerable Women, Infants, and Children

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO — To ensure that infants, children and pregnant women receive critical healthcare and food assistance, Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris is authoring AB 526, which creates a pathway for easier enrollment when kids and pregnant moms qualify for both Medi-Cal and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program (WIC). This bill was approved by the Senate Health Committee today, June 26, 2019, on a 8-0 vote. In May, AB 526 received strong bipartisan support on the Assembly Floor, passing with a 78-0 vote.

“Proper health care and nutrition is so significant in the first 5 years of life, and we should make it easier for vulnerable infants, children and pregnant women to receive the healthcare and the food assistance they need and are entitled to,” stated Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris. “AB 526 will make the application process for state services logical—we should remove as much bureaucracy and red tape as possible so moms can focus on their babies, and not redundant paperwork.”  

WIC is a federally funded health and nutrition program to improve birth and health outcomes for low-income pregnant women, children and infants. On average, 1.1 million children and infants are covered each month by this program. There are similar eligibility conditions between Medi-Cal and WIC. However, last year, nearly 87,000 children and infants and nearly 11,000 pregnant women were not covered by Medi-Cal, while being members of the WIC program.

With the goal of expanding healthcare coverage and food assistance, AB 526 will establish an automated enrollment pathway between Medi-Cal and WIC. In practice, if a WIC applicant does not show Medi-Cal enrollment based on a query to the Medi-Cal database (MEDS), the applicant could give consent to initiate Express Lane Eligibility (ELE) enrollment for Medi-Cal using the WIC eligibility findings. Children and pregnant women will enroll via the ELE pathway, allowing for faster administrative procedures and savings.

AB 526 is included in the Care4All California legislative priorities and will be heard next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Comments from the Sponsors of AB 526:

“California has made significant progress toward ensuring all kids have health coverage with nearly 97% of kids covered. We know that kids who are covered are more likely to grow into healthy and productive adults. However, over 200,000 children still remain uninsured, and the state must act to fulfill the promise of Health4All Kids. The effort by Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris in AB 526 is a smart investment to get us closer to guaranteed coverage, especially for young children and pregnant women where the important preventive care they can receive through Medi-Cal is critical to ensuring a healthy start.” –Ted Lempert, President of Children Now

"Healthy children require enrolling families to health coverage and services available to them as early in a child's development as possible. This WIC to Medi-Cal pathway is a logical solution that is directly aligned with the Governor's early childhood development priority and is a smart strategy for making programs work for families. Let's give pregnant women, newborns and young children access to the important health care and nutrition services they need to lead healthy lives."– Mayra E Alvarez, President of The Children’s Partnership

“Assembly Bill 526 will help get tens of thousands of eligible young children and pregnant women enrolled in health coverage at a critically important developmental stage of their lives.  This simple, common sense step will move us closer to a California where every child has a healthy start in life,  and we look forward to working with Assembly member Petrie-Norris to get it signed into law this year.” – Shimica Gaskins, Executive Director of Children’s Defense Fund—California

“At this point, it is well documented that prenatal services are far less accessible for uninsured women. In working to reduce the state’s preterm birth, infant, and maternal mortality rates, creative proposals such as AB 526 are absolutely essential.  March of Dimes thanks Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris for authoring this important measure which could potentially lead to nine thousand more women gaining access to critical health insurance coverage and prenatal services.” – Erric S. Garris, California Director of Advocacy and Government Affairs of March of Dimes