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Congresswoman Karen Bass

Representing the 37th District of California

Bass, Sen. Casey Introduce Medicaid Fixes For Current And Former Foster Youth

June 3, 2019
Press Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, along with Senator Bob Casey (D-Penn.), introduced two bills aimed at improving Medicaid coverage for current and former foster youth.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) extended Medicaid coverage to age 26 for all foster youth who were in foster care on their 18th birthday and were already enrolled in Medicaid. This provision of the law was intended to create parity between these individuals and young adults who can stay on their parent’s health insurance until the age of 26. When the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued regulations, states could choose to cover youth who aged out of foster care elsewhere, but were not required to do so. In 2018, the bipartisan “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act” enacted a reasonable fix for this provision of the ACA, making it so that by January 1, 2023, Medicaid to 26 will be available to all former foster youth, even if they move to another state after aging out of foster care.

The “Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act” and the “Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act”, which were both introduced today, continue to improve this measure by eliminating the delay for the Medicaid to 26 fix and expanding Medicaid to 26 coverage to ensure that more former foster youth are covered. These bills will ensure that more former foster youth can rely on having health insurance.

“Extended coverage for foster youth was never supposed to be optional,” said Rep. Bass. “This is about fairness. Former foster youth should be treated the same way we treat all young people. I hope that my colleagues in both chambers can come together to support these two pieces of common-sense legislation.”

“Former foster youth frequently have more complicated health care needs than the general population, meaning that it is essential for them to access health care” said Senator Casey. “We have an obligation to these youth, and we must ensure that Medicaid is there for them when a parent is unable or unavailable to help. The Immediate Coverage Act will ensure that former foster youth have immediate parity with young adults who can stay on a parent’s plan, and the Expanded Coverage Act will work to ensure that no former foster youth fall through the cracks. These should not be controversial ideas, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this legislation forward.”

The bills come one day before the 8th annual Foster Youth Shadow Day, an event hosted by the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth in which current and former foster youth from more than 30 states ranging from Alaska to Maine come to Washington, DC to shadow their Member of Congress. This year’s Shadow Day includes 130 delegates aged between 18 to 30. They have spent a combined 725 years in the child welfare system. The goal is to help Congress understand how to improve the child welfare system.

The Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act would:

  • Eliminate the delay for the Medicaid to 26 fix; and
  • make the fix take effect the day the Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act becomes law.

The Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act would:

  • Eliminates the unnecessary and unfair limitation that youth must be enrolled in Medicaid while they were in the system to qualify for Medicaid to 26;
  • expands eligibility for Medicaid to 26 coverage to former foster youth who were in the system and exited foster care to a legal guardianship with a kinship caregiver;
  • expands eligibility for Medicaid to 26 to former foster youth who emancipate from foster care prior to turning 18; and
  • requires state Medicaid programs to work with state child welfare agencies to establish outreach and enrollment programs for this coverage. These outreach programs will be run in accordance with best practices established by HHS.