Federal approval of Medi-Cal funding to provide expanded COVID-19 testing for low-income students  

Medi‐Cal is the primary health care system for more than half of the state’s population under the age of 20.

Information provided by The Office of the Governor of the State of California  

On March 3, Gov. Gavin Newsom stated that the Biden-Harris Administration has approved California’s request to utilize Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) funding to provide voluntary COVID-19 testing for low-income students covered by the program, further supporting schools in underserved communities to reopen for in-person instruction.

“I am grateful to our federal partners for approving our request to expand testing for low-income students to ensure schools can reopen safely in underserved neighborhoods that are bearing the brunt of pandemic hardships,” Newsom said. “Our top priority is getting students back in the classroom to not only meet their learning needs, but also their mental health and social-emotional needs.”

Given the unprecedented nature of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, on Dec. 24, the California Department of Health Care Services requested permission, using the federal demonstration authority, to provide COVID-19 testing in schools for Medi-Cal children in grades transitional kindergarten through 12. This request to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has been approved retroactively to Feb. 1 and will continue for 60 days after the end of the federal public health emergency.

According to a recent release, Medi‐Cal is the primary health care system for more than half of the state’s population under the age of 20. For schools electing to implement COVID-19 testing as an additional mitigation layer—especially those serving communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic—the state and federal governments will now shoulder much of the costs. Medi-Cal provides coverage to 50-55% of school-aged children in California.

“As a pediatrician and father, I know schools are a vital place for our kids where in-person learning has a positive impact on their overall health and well-being,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Further leveraging our state Medicaid program to increase access to testing will not only help us to reopen schools, but also ensure that testing becomes even more accessible for underserved students.”

Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced on March 1 a $6.6 billion budget package to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic, mental health and social-emotional supports, including over the summer. The package builds on the state’s ongoing efforts to accelerate safe school reopenings, which have included the delivery of three months of personal protective equipment and safety supplies to all schools at no cost, direct support to over 1,000 schools in 41 counties to implement COVID-19 testing and direct technical assistance to over 300 school districts.

For more information about safe returns to in-person instruction, visit schools.covid19.ca.gov.

For more information about testing in schools, please visit testing.covid19.ca.gov/school-testing.