Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), young people who turn age 18 while still in foster care (“age out” of care), no matter which state they were in care, have access to free health care coverage through Medicaid.
The ACA smartly recognized that youth in foster care are not able to access health insurance through a parent’s plan and put this provision into place. We know that our youth in care often have greater health needs than their peers not in care, greater chronic health needs, and prescription needs that can have dire consequences if interrupted. Knowing that, and knowing that the transition out of care can be difficult as it is, it’s so critical to make sure our youth exiting care have adequate, continuous, accessible health care options.
There are three simple eligibility questions for foster youth to determine if they can access “Medicaid to 26”:
* Were you in foster care (in any state) when you turned 18 years old?
* Are you a resident of Virginia?
* Are you under the age of 26?
If the answers to these three questions are YES, then you have health insurance in Virginia through our Medicaid program. This means you can have access to: basic medical care (including preventive care), mental and behavioral health, substance abuse treatment, prenatal care for pregnant women, and some limited vision and dental care (there are more vision/dental benefits for youth between 18-21).
The “Medicaid to 26” benefit for former foster youth is not “means tested,” meaning that youth have access to it regardless of how much or little income they may receive. Youth who are approaching the “aging out” process should be asking their caseworkers to help them access this benefit, and youth who have already “aged out” can contact their former caseworker or their local department of social services for help with enrollment. Young people can also *always* contact us at Voices to help with this process.
Voices will soon be releasing a website dedicated solely to health care information and advocacy for youth aging out of care: www.fosteringhealthva.org. This site will provide information about eligibility, enrollment, benefits covered, resources, FAQs and advocacy opportunities around foster care and health care for older youth.
Some additional issues we will be working on to improve this benefit for youth:
* an “auto-enrollment” process for youth to automatically have access to this Medicaid option upon “aging out” of care, without any complications related to enrollment delays or verifying eligibility.
* Streamlining the application process for youth who have already “aged out” of care who have not yet been determined eligible (e.g., youth who may have already been out of the system when this benefit was adopted, but are still under the age of 26).
* Easing the annual verification process for young adults in this “Former Foster Youth” category, who may be more mobile and have changes in address that can make communication difficult, and could potentially cause interruptions in coverage.
* Increasing outreach and education on this topic, both for former foster youth and those who may have contact with young people formerly in care, like former foster parents, caseworkers, college admissions staff, judges and GALs, legal aid attorneys and health care navigators.
The Departments of Social Services and Medical Assistance Services here in Virginia have some information posted on their own sites, but we hope to provide a “one-stop” portal for anyone seeking information or help accessing health care for former foster youth.
You can find some information on the DMAS site here.
We’ll keep you posted! For any questions or feedback now, please email Voices Senior Policy Attorney Amy Woolard.Read More Blog Posts