Pennsylvania’s alternative to a traditional Medicaid expansion, known as Healthy PA, was approved last week by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Originally, the proposed Medicaid provisions for Pennsylvania made it difficult for children from foster and group homes who are aging out of the child welfare system to qualify for medical coverage.
KidsVoice, along with other child advocacy organizations, succeeded in challenging and changing the proposed coverage to ensure that critical health care benefits are provided to former foster and group home children who “age out” of the child welfare system. Because of that advocacy, Healthy PA will provide the opportunity for many former foster youth to obtain medical coverage under Medicaid for the first time.
In arguing for changes to the original proposal, KidsVoice pointed to two major problems created by requiring youth transitioning from foster and group homes to meet certain work requirements at age 21 and pay monthly Medicaid premiums – neither of which are required for young adults who have financial and family support and can remain on their parents’ private health insurance coverage up to age 26.
First, KidsVoice argued that missed premiums or lack of employment could result in former foster youth having no medical coverage. These young adults then would be less likely to seek medical care due to exorbitant uninsured costs, or might choose to wait until their medical situation was so severe that emergency room care is required to rehabilitate their ailment. Second, those uninsured bills often would go unpaid, leaving hospitals to bear those costs — and leaving foster youth with significant debt and credit problems which make it even more difficult for these abused and neglected youth to transition from foster and group homes to live independently and productively as adults.
KidsVoice also argued that the Affordable Care Act required states to allow former foster youth to remain on Medicaid until age 26 to ensure that they would have access to the same health insurance as other young adults who can remain on a parent’s coverage until age 26.
Former foster youth face significant challenges while transitioning out of care. KidsVoice removes many of those barriers through our Independent Living Program. The federal government’s rejection of Pennsylvania’s originally proposed job and premium requirements for foster youth is a win not only for KidsVoice clients but for all young people across Pennsylvania who are exiting foster care and transitioning into adulthood.