Bass, Casey Want to Tighten Up Medicaid Guarantees for Foster Youth

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.)

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) have introduced two bills aimed at shoring up federal health care guarantees for current and former foster youth.

As of 2014, Affordable Care Act guaranteed Medicaid coverage through age 26 to any young person who was in foster care at age 18. Bass has for years been leading the charge to clean up some loopholes and imprecisions in the law.

“Extended coverage for foster youth was never supposed to be optional,” said Rep. Bass, in a statement announcing the bills. “This is about fairness. Former foster youth should be treated the same way we treat all young people. I hope that my colleagues in both chambers can come together to support these two pieces of common-sense legislation.”

Bass used the opioid bill passed last September to successfully address the biggest issue with the Medicaid guarantee last year. Before then, only the state in which the youth was in care would be required to guarantee Medicaid. If a youth wanted to move states to live with family, or to attend college, the receiving state would not be required to enroll them.

The opioid bill closed that loophole, but set that fix to take effect in 2023. One of the bills introduced this week – the Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act – would lock in multi-state coverage as soon as the bill was enacted.

The other legislation introduced this week, the Expanded Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act, would expand the universe of youth who are entitled to the foster youth Medicaid guarantee. Under this bill, that guarantee would be extended to youth who exited care to a kinship guardianship arrangement; youth who emancipated before age 18; and those who were not enrolled in Medicaid for whatever reason during their time in foster care.

The bill would also require state Medicaid programs to make a plan for active outreach and enrollment efforts targeting current and former foster youth.

“Former foster youth frequently have more complicated health care needs than the general population, meaning that it is essential for them to access health care,” said Casey, in a statement. “We have an obligation to these youth, and we must ensure that Medicaid is there for them when a parent is unable or unavailable to help.”

Casey also recently introduced a bill to enable relative caregivers, and the children living with them, to more easily access Social Security benefits and child payments through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.