Give foster youth full access to Affordable Care Act

Anyone working with youth who may be aging out of care should be supportive on this issue as it greatly concerns health care being available to youth aging out of the system:
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) serve as  co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

This month marks the third anniversary since the Affordable Care Act was  signed into law by President Barack Obama. Despite the ongoing partisan rancor  surrounding the bill’s implementation, there is at least one provision Congress  should be able to find common ground around: making sure we protect the ability  of young adults to remain on their parents’ health care plans until they reach  age 26. Millions of young adults already are benefiting from this provision as  they work to get themselves established either through continuing their  educations or landing a job.

But when it comes to the thousands of foster youth who age out of the  foster-care system each year, the guarantee of affordable health insurance until  they are able to get on their feet with gainful employment could be in jeopardy  if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid doesn’t take the broadest  interpretation of the law and ensure all states cover former foster youth until  age 26.

Almost 30,000 young people age out of foster care every year,  having never been adopted or reunified with their birth parents. The fact that  they age out is our failure as a government, and we should not compound that  problem by inadvertently denying them access to the same health care  opportunities as any other young adult would receive under the Affordable Care  Act.

Foster youth who age out are statistically more likely to experience  homelessness and incarceration and to lack health care. They face higher rates  of physical and mental health challenges, sometimes due in part to trauma early  in life. These facts make it all the more important that we guarantee all  eligible foster-care alumni access to quality health coverage.

Foster youth shouldn’t be treated any differently as they transition from the  foster-care system into adulthood — but if we aren’t careful, that’s exactly  what could happen.

The CMS proposed regulation requires states to enroll eligible foster youth  in Medicaid to age 26 only if they remain living in the state where they were in  foster care and enrolled in Medicaid. Although the draft regulation provides  states with the option of extending Medicaid to youth who move to their state,  it does not require it. That may leave foster youth in limbo when it comes to  their ability to access these benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

While CMS should be applauded for striving to achieve health parity for  foster youth, requiring those youth to remain living in the state where they  were in foster care presents an unnecessary burden on the backs of those already  carrying the heaviest load.

No residency requirement exists for the young people who receive health  coverage through their parents’ plans and no such requirement should exist for  foster youth. That was Congress’s intent, and we must do everything to ensure  this mission is carried out.

As written, this regulation could limit youth from seeking a variety of  opportunities, including a college education, a new job and living closer to  family members.

Especially in states within close proximity, such as the  Washington-Maryland-Virginia area, it is very likely that young foster care  alumni could move to nearby states. Former foster youth, many who have unique  physical and mental health needs, should not be forced to choose between health  care and moving to a new state with promising educational, economic or social  opportunity.

Already, allowing young adults to receive coverage through their parents’ plans to age 26 has allowed for more than 3 million young people to have health  care coverage while they pursue their dreams and get on their feet. Foster youth  deserve the same opportunities, particularly given all that they must overcome  in reaching their full potential.

To achieve true parity for foster youth, CMS will need to clarify the  congressional intent of this specific provision by issuing a final rule that  ensures states provide Medicaid benefits to age 26 for all eligible foster youth  residing within a state at any time, regardless of whether they grew up in that  state’s foster-care system or recently moved to the state.

Doing so gives foster youth the same flexibility with their health care  choices as any other young adult.

Congress and foster youth advocates should strongly urge the Department of  Health and Human Services to issue a final rule that protects foster youth and  provides them with the very same opportunities Congress intended to give all  young adults when it passed the Affordable Care Act.



6 Responses

  1. Forcing parents to pay for and keep their adult children on their healthcare plans makes them unable to save for their retirement. These adult children live at home, many of them not working, forcing their parents to foot the bill for food, clothing and shelter costs, too.

    • Don’t pro create if you don’t give a shit about their well being forever. If you took care of them well enough before 26 they would have their own job with benefits anyways. Not to mention tons of companies are paying benefits for their employees because of the affordable care act so maybe you just need to work for a less stingy company. And your comment is altogether irrelevant and honestly a little rude since you came to a place where people post about trying to help children with no support to complain that you don’t want to take care of your child.

    • Terri~

      No one is forcing parents to keep kids on their health insurance…it is voluntary! Also most kids when they go out on their own do not have jobs that pay enough to cover food, shelter, insurance, etc.
      Besides if you read the article it is about FOSTER YOUTH aging out of care and completely on their own with no family connection. Were YOU ready to fully support yourself on your own when you turned 18 or even 21 and not have a family to fall back on for help if you needed it??? If you cannot answer yes then how do you expect youth againg out of care to do it!!

  2. I am sooo glad you posted this! I have been trying to contact state officials and figure out IF/when CA will honor the affordable care act for foster youth. When I first started researching an article I found did say that CA would honor it in 2014 but I have been without health care and under 26 for 2 years now so I was LIVID when I turned 21 and found out I was yet again being screwed by the system.

  3. I read half and was too excited to see the support for this issue and posted. Having read it all, I moved from CA to TX 3 months ago and have also worried about how I would probably not see my insurance again even in 2014 because I am not in CA any longer. However, I was from Los Angeles and had to resort to unspeakable things to keep myself off of the streets when I turned 18 because a 1 bedroom starts at $1500 where I’m from. Now that I’m in Austin, for the first time I can actually afford the roof over my head. But it’s a daily source of stress that if I get hurt I could end up with like $100,000 of debt for an ER visit or something because I didn’t have health care. And on top of that I need therapy and I much prefer to be able to get my medical and dental check ups… I also found a lump about a month ago and can’t go to the doctor to figure out what it is. But a doctor I met at a coffee shop and made answer questions said I really needed to get the lump checked out… Anyways. I’m off topic. Additionally, I believe it’s supposed to cause me to incur extra taxes and stuff that I am not now providing my own insurance so there is yet another reason this blows.

  4. Thank you for posting this. Trying to get health insurance while aging out of foster care was difficult and I was never able to obtain it waiting for Bush to sign off on the paperwork. Education and awareness is the key to making change. Without it we don’t grow and in the process people could be dying.

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