In 2012, the Legislature authorized the development and pilot implementation of a universal assessment tool (UAT) to streamline eligibility and level-of-need determinations for three home- and community-based services (HCBS) programs that provide care to seniors and people with disabilities. Our analysis finds that the benefits of a UAT likely outweigh the costs associated with its development. To ensure the UAT achieves the benefits of creating a more effective and efficient approach to HCBS assessment, we recommend: (1) legislation specifying intent to eventually use the UAT on a statewide basis, (2) development of an automated UAT customized to fit within California’s programmatic and policy environment, (3) piloting of county welfare departments and managed care plans as administrators of the UAT, and (4) a formal evaluation of the UAT pilot.