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Rep. Bass Introduces Bicameral Legislation With Senator Casey To Expand Medicaid Access For Foster Youth

March 11, 2021
Press Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, re-introduced the Expanded Coverage for Foster Youth Act and the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Foster Youth Act. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced both bills in the United States Senate.

“Today marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic,” said Rep. Karen Bass. “Around that time, it was common to hear that covid-19 would be a great equalizer. The thought was that no one had ever been exposed to the disease before, so everyone was vulnerable. But data gathered over the past year has revealed that to be untrue. One of our most vulnerable populations, young people in the child welfare system, have been impacted disproportionately by this pandemic. These two bills today that I’ve introduced with Senator Casey today help ensure that health care coverage available to most young people in this country are available to young people who are in the child welfare system or have already aged out. I urge my colleagues to join me in standing up for the hundreds of thousands of young people and pass these bills.”

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.

These two bills 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.

The Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act:

  • 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
  • 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

The Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act:

  • Eliminates the delay for the Medicaid to 26 fix
  • Makes the fix take effect the day the Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act becomes law.

Dosha “DJay” Joi spent 10 years in foster care and had health complications that he battled into adulthood. As a nursing student and advocate for children in the child welfare system, he fought to make sure they were protected and received the support they needed to thrive in care and as they transitioned into adulthood. In 2018 and 2019, he participated in National Foster Youth Shadow Day, a program that brings more than 100 current and former foster youth to Washington, DC to shadow their member of Congress and discuss legislation to reform the child welfare system. There, he touched the lives of many, including Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI), who he shadowed during the Shadow Day program.

“I first met DJay when he was in Washington, DC participating in our Foster Youth Shadow Day program,” said Rep. Bass “His smile lit up dim meeting rooms and his laugh bounded through sometimes-hollow hallways. He was an advocate through and through – a champion for health care reforms for current and former foster youth and other changes to our child welfare system. He wanted to make the world a better place than he found it. And he did. DJay’s death is a sad reminder that there is no time to waste to act on behalf of our nation’s foster youth. As this pandemic continues, it’s critical that we make sure everyone in this vulnerable population has the coverage and the care they need. We must pass the Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act."