Today’s guest blog post is written by Dustin Haley, a CCAI 2013 intern, University of Texas undergraduate student, and former foster youth.
As the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is rolled out, many former foster youth will have increased availability for medical coverage. Starting in 2014, youth who aged out of foster care will be eligible to remain on Medicaid until age 26, a huge win for child welfare advocates and former foster youth.
Youth in college will now have the peace of mind of always having their health insurance covered, and will not have to choose between books and medical care. Former foster youth who are working part time will also be able to support themselves without having the unnecessary burden of healthcare costs. However, limitations to the ACA will negatively impact many of the former foster youth. As a former foster youth myself, I am all too familiar with these restrictions but it wasn’t until I started interning with CCAI that I learned I could advocate to change this policy.
First Focus, a bipartisan advocacy organization, recently took a look at this regulation, in addition to the rest of the ACA as it applies to foster youth. They found that as it stands now, coverage will only be guaranteed to those who remain in the state where they resided when they were 18. This is a huge issue for foster youth around the nation, as they often travel to different states for extended periods for school, jobs, or internships. Many also move to be closer to support systems, whether they are close friends or extended family. First Focus points out that restrictions on residency only apply to foster youth, not to adopted children nor to youth raised in a traditional family.
During CCAI’s summer Foster Youth Internship (FYI) Program, foster youth from around the nation come to DC work on Capitol Hill. Most all of them come from different states and thus are not eligible to receive Medicaid in DC. Since I’ve started interning at CCAI, I’ve learned about one of last summer’s interns, who ended up needing medical treatment, but experienced difficulties because he was not in his “home” state.
I contacted Josh to learn more about his experience and he explained how he had just returned from a trip to Ecuador when he started as an FYI participant last summer. Soon thereafter, Josh started to experience serious stomach issues stemming from possible parasites contracted while abroad. He went to a quick-service clinic in DC and had to pay full cost for treatment. Unfortunately, the practitioners in the clinics are not specialists and could not figure out what he had contracted. Seeing a specialist in DC would have cost Josh too much money out of pocket and was thus forced to fly back to Tennessee. He was able to get the proper treatment from a specialist there and he soon recovered.
I too have run into the same struggles as Josh since being out of my home state—Texas—and completing my internship in DC this semester. I recently injured my knee, but due to the limitations on Medicaid, I was not able to seek out treatment. Had I seen a doctor, they would have surely ordered X-Rays and possibly an MRI. Without insurance, these bills quickly add up. My struggles, along with the struggles of all foster youth, should not be lost on child welfare advocates.
The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services recently opened up to debate the section of the Affordable Care Act regarding former foster youth. Organizations have been able to submit comments, many of which proposed medical coverage for former foster youth irrespective of the state they resided in when they were 18. I, for one, hope to see change that eventually leads to greater benefits to the youth.