Effective Messaging on Medi-Cal Expansion to Seniors


Effective May 1, 2022, California expanded eligibility for full Medi-Cal benefits to all low-income adults age 50 or older, regardless of immigration status. To gain insight into effective messaging to raise awareness of this Medi-Cal expansion and motivate enrollment, the California Health Care Foundation hired a research firm, Vision, Strategy and Insights (VSI), to conduct testing of message with newly eligible Latino/x, Chinese and Korean Immigrants in Los Angeles County.

VSI hosted 12 focus groups from May 24 to June 9, 2022, with 65 participants in total: 32 Latino/x, 17 Chinese, and 16 Korean. In addition to probing general awareness of the Medi-Cal program and the new enrollment opportunity, focus group participants responded to outreach materials currently used by community organizations and the California Department of Health Care Services.

Main conclusions and recommendations

  • Mixed awareness, high interest. About half of Latino/x participants said they had heard of the expansion. Awareness was lower among Chinese and Korean participants. Regardless of their prior knowledge, attendees welcomed the news of the expansion.
  • Carefully motivated. Most respondents said they were “very motivated” to apply, and their motivation increased as they learned more. Nevertheless, most expressed the need for more information before taking this step.
  • More information (not less) is better. Participants preferred outreach materials with more detailed information about Medi-Cal, the benefits and services they would receive, and eligibility requirements. More information allays concerns and builds trust and credibility.
  • Emphasize the connection to the California government. Respondents liked knowing that the source of Medi-Cal is the California government and that the new ability to enroll is due to a law that is not subject to erratic changes.
    • Clarify that extending Medi-Cal to ages 50 and older, regardless of immigration status, is new law.
    • Explain that Medi-Cal is a government program.
    • Where possible, include .gov websites (instead of .com or .org).
    • Use government officials or Medi-Cal program representatives as messengers.
  • List the health care services covered. Dental care, vision care, general preventative wellness visits, and referral to specialists were rated as the most valued services by respondents.
  • Address concerns about immigration status and public charge head-on. State explicitly that enrollment in Medi-Cal will not affect current or future immigration status. Display this information prominently.
  • Provide multiple points of contact. Respondents wanted phone, online, and in-person options for getting more information or help.

VSI’s slide presentation, available under Document Downloads, provides more detailed results.


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