Research brief: Barriers to abortion care in California: Highlighting challenges of Medi-Cal coverage

September 2016

Research brief: Barriers to abortion care in California: Highlighting challenges of Medi-Cal coverage

ACCESS Women's Health Justice, All *Above All, and Ibis Reproductive Health. Research brief: Barriers to abortion care in California: Highlighting challenges of Medi-Cal coverage. September 2016.

California is often celebrated for its progressive policies in the national conversation about abortion access. For example, federal funding of abortion coverage in federal health plans is restricted by the Hyde Amendment, but California is one of 15 states that uses its own funds to cover the health care service for people insured by the state’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal.While federal Medicaid funding limits abortion coverage to cases when a person’s life is at risk, or when a pregnancy results from rape or incest, Medi-Cal covers abortion for any reason. People in California who have federal or private insurance that does not cover abortion are eligible for abortion coverage under MediCal if they meet income qualifications and can provide proof that their insurance policy does not cover the procedure.In addition, California continues to pass policies to improve women’s reproductive health, inclusive of abortion care. In 2015, California enacted three pro-choice measures--more than any other state-and no anti-choice measures.

Despite California’s supportive policy environment and commitment to abortion care for all people, current challenges with Medi-Cal coverage may limit access to abortion services for people with low incomes. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2015 showed Medi-Cal covers 2.3 million women aged 15-49 in California, approximately 25% of the state’s women in that age group. Barriers to accessing abortion care affect a significant number of women and have the potential to cause poor health and social outcomes and increase disparities in reproductive health. In this brief, we examine and explore the impact of three primary challenges faced by people seeking to access abortion care with Medi-Cal coverage: 

1. Low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates
2. Misconceptions and misinformation about Medi-Cal eligibility and coverage
3. Difficulty finding a Medi-Cal provider

We argue that research on these challenges, to better understand who is affected by them and to identify potential solutions, is critical for protecting and promoting access to abortion care in California.