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Advocates Champion Bill that Closes Gap for Former Foster Youth to Access Health Insurance
Ari Goldberg (Former Staff)
Washington, DC (September 12, 2017) – Washington advocates today celebrated Senator Bob Casey’s (D-PA) introduction of the Health Insurance for Foster Youth Act (S. 1797). This bill ensures that youth who age out of foster care, or leave foster care for a kinship placement, have Medicaid coverage no matter which state they aged out in.
Currently, foster youth who age out of care are eligible for Medicaid coverage until the age of 26, mirroring the provision of the ACA that allows young adults to stay on their parent’s health insurance until they are 26. However, if a foster youth ages out of care and moves to a different state, the state they move to does not have to provide Medicaid coverage. So far, only 14 states have taken the option to cover youth who have aged out in a different state.
The Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act helps close this unintentional loophole that makes it more difficult for former foster youth to gain access to coverage. The bill also expands coverage for youth who left care at age 14 to be in kinship placement and requires state Medicaid programs to work with child with child welfare agencies to establish outreach and enrollment programs so more youth who are transitioning out of foster care can have health insurance.
Due to their experiences of abuse, neglect, loss, and trauma, youth who are in foster care face a number of health issues that make it vitally important for them to have access to health care. Nearly 50% suffer from chronic conditions such as asthma, cognitive abnormalities, visual, and auditory problems, dental decay and malnutrition. Over half also exhibit behavioral or social competency issues that may require mental health treatment.
Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, praised the bill, saying, “Congress never intended to exclude Medicaid coverage for youth who moved to a different state. This is a much-needed fix that will empower former foster youth to become successful, healthy young adults and put them on equal footing with their peers.”
“A former foster youth’s ability to access healthcare coverage shouldn’t depend on their zip code,” Senator Bob Casey said. “This is a commonsense fix so that former foster youth have the same ability to access health coverage as other young Americans.”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a nonpartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.