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Nearly 60 Percent of Youth in Foster Care Have a Chronic Medical Condition

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced two bills to ensure that youth who age out of the foster care system have health insurance coverage until age 26, the same as young adults who can stay on a parent’s plan. The Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act (S. 709) and the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act (S. 712) would ensure all former foster youth can enroll in Medicaid until age 26. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended Medicaid coverage until age 26 for former foster youth, there are loopholes that prevent many former foster youth from accessing this coverage. U.S. Representative Karen Bass (D-CA-37) introduced the House companion to both bills.

“Many former foster youth have physical, dental and behavioral health care needs that are well beyond those of the general population. While Medicaid provides critical health care coverage for children and youth in foster care, their health needs do not end when they age out of the system at 18,” said Senator Casey. “Congress has an obligation to ensure young adults who have aged out of the foster care system have the same guarantee of health insurance as those who can stay on their parent’s plan until age 26. These bills would help eliminate the challenges that many former foster youth face in accessing Medicaid coverage until age 26. We must do everything we can to support young adults, who have nowhere else to turn, so that they have the opportunity to thrive in adulthood.”

“Today marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic,” said Representative Karen Bass. “Around that time, it was common to hear that covid-19 would be a great equalizer. The thought was that no one had ever been exposed to the disease before, so everyone was vulnerable. But data gathered over the past year has revealed that to be untrue. One of our most vulnerable populations, young people in the child welfare system, have been impacted disproportionately by this pandemic. These two bills today that I’ve introduced with Senator Casey today help ensure that health care coverage available to most young people in this country are available to young people who are in the child welfare system or have already aged out. I urge my colleagues to join me in standing up for the hundreds of thousands of young people and pass these bills.”

The Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act (S. 709) would strengthen Medicaid coverage to age 26 by extending it to categories of former foster youth who are not currently eligible. For example, it would remove a requirement that former foster youth must have been enrolled in Medicaid while they were in the system in order to qualify for coverage to 26 years old. It would also expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage to 26 to former foster youth who were in the system, but left for a legal guardianship with a kinship caregiver, and those who emancipated from foster care prior to turning 18.

The Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act (S. 712) addresses the ACA’s ‘foster youth glitch’. The foster youth glitch allows each state to choose whether or not they offer Medicaid to 26 coverage to former foster youth who aged out of the foster care system in a different state. Language based on Senator Casey’s bill, the Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act, created a fix for the foster youth glitch when it passed in 2018. Unfortunately, Congress chose to delay implementation of that fix until January 1, 2023. Until that time, states can still choose not to cover former foster youth who age out in another state, and many former foster youth will continue to go without access to critical health care services. For that reason, this bill would immediately implement the fix for the foster youth glitch, ensuring that Medicaid to age 26 coverage is available for all former foster youth in every state when the bill passes. This bill is named after Dosha Joi, (DJay) a former foster youth studying to become a nurse when he died on May 14, 2020 of COVID-19. DJay was an advocate for youth aging out of foster care. His goal was to do as much as possible to help youth aging out of care with mental health, addiction and independent living skills.

As a champion for youth in foster care, Senator Casey also recently cosponsored the bipartisan Timely Mental Health for Foster Youth Act, which would provide mandatory mental health screenings for all youth when they enter the foster care system and establish supports that will set them on a path of success.

Read more about the Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act here.

Read more about the Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act here.