• December 2015
  • Vol. 16, No. 9

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Reconnecting Young Adults With Medicaid Coverage

A January 2015 provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) enables young adults in every State who have aged out of foster care to be insured through Medicaid until age 26. However, many young people who are eligible for coverage are unaware of how to access care and are uninsured. An article in Youth Today discusses this disconnection and, while it focuses on youth and young adults in New York, the information and message applies nationally to all youth in, formerly in, and currently aging out of foster care.

Approximately 1,300 youth age out of New York's foster care system annually. Young adults who exited care after January 2014 were automatically enrolled in Medicaid. Those who left prior to this date need to actively sign up on their own through the Department of Social Services or the State's Internet marketplace. The Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy estimates that there are 5,000 youth formerly in foster care in New York City—10,000 statewide—eligible for Medicaid who have not signed up.

This issue is especially concerning because published research has shown that 60 percent of youth in foster care have chronic health conditions, such as asthma. When these uninsured young adults visit emergency rooms and free clinics seeking services, it places a preventable strain on the country's health-care system.

Child welfare and youth services workers believe it is partly a matter of misinformation. Many youth were under the impression that Medicaid coverage was ongoing, not realizing that coverage expired once they aged out of care (prior to January 2014) and that they were required to reapply. Other young adults who are contacted and informed of these benefits may be distrustful of the system they left and, therefore, reluctant to enroll.

Reaching out to foster care alumni, educating them about their health-care options, and empowering this population to reenroll in Medicaid is a challenging but critical job. New York City's Administration for Children's Services and the State's Office of Child and Family Services have undertaken a variety of outreach efforts in an attempt to reconnect young adults with the Medicaid coverage and care they need.

The article, "Many Former Foster Youth Unaware of New Health Care Benefits," by Audrey McGlinchy and Colin Archdeacon, is available in Youth Today, a nationally distributed newspaper geared toward professionals in the youth service field. To read more, visit the publication's website at http://youthtoday.org/2015/01/many-former-foster-youth-unaware-of-new-health-care-benefit/.

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