Recently, Rep, Karen Bass (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, introduced the Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act, a bill that addresses a misinterpretation of the health care law by providing foster youth with the same health insurance benefits as their peers.
The current health insurance system is one of the many disproportionate challenges that our nation’s foster youth face. With the Affordable Care Act, foster youth who are in care by their 18th birthday and previously enrolled in Medicaid are able to receive healthcare until the age of 26, much like their peers who can remain on their parents’ insurance plans until that age. However, after several years of requested clarification, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services misinterpreted the provision and restricted foster youth from receiving health insurance if they move out of their state.
“Foster youth face incredible adversities throughout their lives, many of which begin after they turn 18 and grow out of the child welfare system,” Rep. Bass said. “I’m proud of this body’s resolve to address this issue and fix this incredibly harmful misinterpretation. Especially as we address the opioid epidemic, we must consider the importance of coverage for this vulnerable population.”
The Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act is particularly important to ensure that foster youth maintain uninterrupted access to health insurance. According to the Congressional Research Service, between 35 and 60 percent of youth who enter foster care have at least one chronic or acute health condition such as asthma, cognitive differences, visual and auditory challenges, dental decay, and malnutrition that require long-term treatment, and 50 to 75 percent of foster youth exhibit behavioral or social competency issues that may require mental health treatment. In 2013, nearly 50,000 youth between the ages of 16-20 exited the foster care system.
The Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act is a bicameral bill that will provide health insurance to foster youth in any state until age 26, as is the law for their peers that did not grow up in the child welfare system.