On October 5, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA) introduced along with Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), HR 3641 the “Health Insurance for Former Foster Youth Act of2015.” The bill mirrors Senate legislation, S 1852, by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) that would fix what most agree is a technical hang-up in the ACA. The ACA requires states, regardless of their choices on extending Medicaid through the new health care law, to provide health insurance to the age of 26 to youth who leave foster care. Due to the specific language in one section, HHS has interpreted this provision to apply only to those young people living in the same state they were in foster care.
In introducing the bill Congresswoman Bass said, “The Affordable Care Act was designed to help young people …not force them to choose between school in another state or healthcare where they currently live,” said Congresswoman Bass. “I commend the states that have addressed this problem, but now it is time for Congress to provide a permanent fix in federal law.”
Currently 13 states have extended to coverage to 26 regardless of where the young person lived in foster care. The remaining 37 states and the District of Columbia. The issue can be critical around boarder areas of a state or small closely situated states. For example, a foster child in Washington DC may have relatives living in neighboring Virginia or Maryland and choose to live, work or hold a job in those adjoining states.
In her press statement Congresswoman Bass references the health care needs of youth in foster care sighting Congressional Research Service data that, between 35 and 60 percent of youth who enter foster care have at least one chronic or acute health condition such as asthma, cognitive abnormalities, visual and auditory problems, dental decay, and malnutrition that require long-term treatment, and 50 to 75 percent of foster youth exhibit behavioral or social competency issues that may require mental health treatment. In 2013, nearly 50,000 youth exited the foster care system between the ages of 16-20.
The press statement also indicates that. Over 140 prominent advocacy organizations support the legislation, including First Focus Campaign for Children, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Psychological Association, Children’s Defense Fund, Child Welfare League of America, and Foster Family-based Treatment Association. McDermott serves along with Bass as co-chair of the House Foster Youth Caucus. There were 20 other House cosponsors of the bill.