Medicaid to 26: Ensuring a Healthy Start to Adulthood After Foster Care

Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey (at podium) address reporters at an October 24, 2014 press conference on Medicaid coverage for youth aging out of foster care.

Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey (at podium) address reporters at an October 24, 2014 press conference on Medicaid coverage for youth aging out of foster care.

On October 24th, as a part of Legislative Resolution 533 (LR 533), introduced by Senator Sue Crawford, Nebraska Appleseed, young adults and partners gathered at the Capitol to discuss Nebraska’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s new provision for Medicaid coverage to age 26 for young adults who age out of foster care.

The day started early with a press conference in the rotunda.  Following remarks by Sen. Crawford, Akeeme, a member of Project Everlast, shared his story of what this new coverage means to him, allowing him to transition from foster care to adulthood without falling into medical debt or not being able to receive treatment. Watch Akeeme’s statement here.

Also at the press conference, Appleseed released a new report, “Medicaid to 26: Ensuring a Healthy Start to Adulthood After Foster Care, which includes data from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) requested as part of LR 533.  Among the report’s findings are that there are 3,144 young adults who are likely eligible for the Medicaid former foster care category, but as of July 23, 2014, only 94 individuals are being covered under this category.  In other words, of the individuals who may be eligible, only three percent are currently accessing this important coverage.  

Following the press conference, the Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on LR 533 at which several partners and providers and DHHS testified.

Among the testifiers at the hearing was Shante, a young person with foster care experience who shared her story of trying to get coverage under this new category  Shante was denied coverage multiple times before her PALS worker assisted her in navigating through the barriers, such as being asked to provide income information even though there is no income requirement for coverage under this category.  Now that she has coverage, Shante testified that she can focus on college where she is studying criminal justice and sociology. Watch Shante’s testimony here.

Nebraska Appleseed Child Welfare Director Sarah Helvey also testified at the hearing and outlined recommendations from the report, including that more needs to be done to improve outreach, ensure transition planning and automatic processing requirements are met, streamline application and renewal, and cover young adults who exit foster care in other states.  Watch Sarah’s testimony here.

While important progress has been made – such as a recent decision by DHHS to cover young people starting at age 18 under this category which provided access to an additional 1,869 potentially eligible individuals – the testimony and the data revealed that there is still more we can and must do as a state to ensure this new opportunity fulfills its promise and intent.

Working together, state agencies, senators, child welfare advocates and partners, and young adults themselves can collaborate to ensure all eligible individuals are able to access the coverage they are allowed under the law and have the best chance to make a healthy transition to adulthood.

Media coverage:

Lincoln Journal Star Former Foster Kids Who Leave at 18 Now Qualify for Medicaid

Nebraska Radio NetworkPush on to get more former foster kids signed up for Medicaid

Associated PressReport: 97 percent of Nebraska youths who may qualify for new Medicaid  program aren’t enrolled

Nebraska News Service Hearing addresses issues with Medicaid coverage for former foster care youth

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