There has been a lot of talk and excitement recently about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will be fully implemented starting January 1, 2014. While the ACA goes a long way in providing Nebraskans with access to affordable and comprehensive coverage, there are a few lesser-known provisions. In particular, youth who age out of foster care will be eligible for Medicaid coverage until they turn 26.
This provision is especially important because of the many barriers these youth face as they transition out of foster care and into adulthood. Generally, young people who age out of care are at a higher risk of experiencing mental and physical health problems than their peers. Nebraska Appleseed has heard stories from young people who aged out and lost their Medicaid coverage, so they just stop going to the doctor – even for necessary treatments, like for a broken hand. Some young people were on medications for years while they were in the system, but then forced to go “cold turkey” when they aged out because of lack of health insurance. Continued access to appropriate health care is one of the essential pieces of ensuring their success.
To help spread the word about this potentially life-changing opportunity, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently created a web badge that agencies or individuals can post to their website or Facebook page, or share via email. Young people who aged out of foster care can simply click on the badge to learn more information about how they may be able to sign up for coverage.
Nebraska Appleseed has also created two factsheets available on our website: The ACA and You!, which is for young adults who may be eligible for this provision, and Medicaid Coverage for Youth Aging Out, for judges, attorneys, and other advocates working with older youth in care.
Those who work with – or know – youth in foster care have a huge opportunity to make a difference for this population by sharing these resources with young people and ensuring they are aware of this upcoming opportunity.