California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Former Foster Care Youths Struggle To Enroll in Medi-Cal

Some California residents who have aged out of the foster care system are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but advocates say that many such individuals have reported that the process for enrollment is difficult and inaccessible, KQED's "State of Health" reports.

Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (Dembosky, "State of Health," KQED, 7/24).

Background

Prior to the ACA, California extended Medi-Cal eligibility to former foster children up to age 21.

Under the ACA, those formerly in foster care now are eligible for Medi-Cal coverage until age 26. In addition, the law allows retroactive claims up to three months before the beginning of coverage.

The ACA also allows "uninterrupted eligibility," which permits young adults to remain in the Medi-Cal program without re-registering each year (California Healthline, 4/29).

Details of Problems

Jessica Haspel, a policy associate at Children Now, said California residents who formerly were in foster care have reported several issues with the Medi-Cal enrollment process, including:

  • Call center staff being unaware of the eligibility for those formerly in foster care; and
  • The exchange website not being properly programmed to enroll such individuals.

Haspel said the problems have resulted in individuals:

  • Being misinformed about their eligibility status; and
  • Being placed on a wait list when they should be fast-tracked for enrollment.

The problems with the enrollment system could negatively affect individuals who formerly were in foster care because they often have special health care needs, according to Haspel. She cited studies finding that nearly 33% of such individuals have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Reaction

Covered California spokesperson Anne Gonzales said, "We are constantly working hard to resolve some of those issues," adding that the exchange is "urging anyone who thinks they missed out on benefits to sign up now."

However, advocates are urging individuals to avoid the Covered California enrollment system altogether and instead sign up for Medi-Cal in person at their county social services office, "State of Health" reports ("State of Health," KQED, 7/24).

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