***For Immediate Release***
March 13, 2015
Contact, Sarah Helvey
Child Welfare Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 850-6885
State Clarifies Medicaid Eligibility for Former Foster Youth in Independent Living
Approximately 1,000 additional young people now eligible for health coverage
LINCOLN — This week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services officially changed a previous policy interpretation and now recognizes eligibility for health coverage to nearly 1,000 young adults who have aged out of foster care.
Under this policy clarification, former state wards who were in an independent living arrangement when they turned 18, are now eligible for health coverage until age 26 under the “former foster youth” category of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This policy change came after Nebraska Appleseed filed an administrative appeal of DHHS’s previous policy interpretation. The appeal was filed on behalf of a young adult who was residing in a college dormitory at age 18 while she was under the responsibility of the state. After DHHS announced their policy change in a memo dated March 3, Appleseed and DHHS agreed to jointly request that the appeal be dismissed which was granted.
“We thank HHS for their efforts to clarify the requirements for this important health care coverage for youth in independent living placements through foster care,” said Sarah Helvey, Child Welfare Director for Nebraska Appleseed. “This is consistent with the intent of the law to allow youth in foster care, living on their own with the state as their legal parent, to have similar access to health care as their non-foster care peers who can stay on their parents’ insurance to age 26.”
About one-third of youth who exit foster care on their 18th birthday or “age out” of foster care on their 19th birthday are in an independent living arrangement at the time of discharge. These are youth who are under the state’s responsibility and supervision but reside independently in a college dormitory, apartment, or other setting. As of July 2014, there were approximately 1,100 young adults who were in independent living at the time their foster care case closed and may now be eligible for health coverage due to this policy clarification.
Ensuring these young people have access to health coverage is important because statistics show that youth who age out of foster care are more likely to have physical health issues that require medical care. If they are unable to afford medical coverage, they may not receive treatment for problems that can follow them into adulthood. Starting out adulthood with medical debt can also threaten their economic security for years to come.
# # #