Among the more than 6,500 students on the campus of Clarion University of Pennsylvania this fall is a former foster youth – we’ll call him “Chris.” He’s a busy student, working two internships as he takes classes, and he’s grateful that can pay his rent and bills as he pursues a college degree.
One thing he can’t afford, however, is health insurance. And unlike many of his peers, he can’t benefit from a provision of the federal Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) that allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26.
Fortunately for Chris, a lesser known provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that takes effect Jan. 1, 2014, requires states to provide Medicaid coverage until age 26 for young people who have aged out of foster care. The provision applies not only to those aging out of foster care in 2014 and beyond, but also former foster youth like Chris who have aged out since 2006, as long as they haven’t yet reached age 26 and were receiving Medicaid when they aged out.
“I don’t have a parent whose insurance can cover me while I’m finishing school, so the opportunity to have health insurance for the next couple years is a big relief and will help me until I get full-time employment with benefits,” Chris explained.
It is estimated there are about 13,300 children currently in the foster care system in Pennsylvania who, if they remain in foster care until they age out, would qualify for Medicaid until age 26. In addition, it is estimated there are about 11,000 children who previously aged out of foster care and have not yet turned 26 who would be eligible for Medicaid.
And we know former foster care children need health insurance. According to a study released by the Georgetown Center on Children and Families, approximately 80 percent of children in foster care have a chronic medical condition, and 25 percent have three or more chronic health problems. For these youth to not have health insurance could be devastating and potentially life threatening.
This provision of the ACA is good for foster youth and the commonwealth as a whole.
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