Bill in Congress Affects Foster Kids Here

California former foster children get Medi-Cal coverage till age 26 — but that’s not the case with Medicaid benefits in 37 other states.

That means those who were in foster care in California and now are ages 18 to 26 can’t move to nearby states such as Oregon or Nevada without losing medical benefits.

A new bill (S 1852)  being floated in Congress would change that.

There is no bill number yet and the bill language hasn’t yet been released, but the proposal will be called Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act of 2015, carried by Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.).

“Moving across state lines shouldn’t cost young people their health care,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children, a not-for-profit children’s advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., “especially former foster youth, who often struggle with extra health burdens.”

Lesley estimated there are roughly 20,000 former foster children ages 18 to 26 across the country, with roughly 2,000 in California.

Former foster youth typically are more likely to become uninsured, they need more care, he said, and they often have trouble getting it.

According to children’s advocates:

  • Young people who age out of foster care generally have poor health outcomes into adulthood;
  • They also tend to have higher rates of drug and alcohol use, unplanned pregnancies and poor mental health outcomes; and
  • More than half of former foster youth report having no health insurance and more than one-fifth report unmet needs for medical care.

The Affordable Care Act made the provision to extend a family’s benefits to children up to age 26, and since the states are the legal parents of foster children, the idea of the bill is that provision should be extended to all former foster kids in the nation.

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