In Honor of National Foster Care Month, Explore Health Care Options for Youth Currently or Formerly in Care

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A doctor helps a young woman.

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to highlight youth in foster care and the resources that can enhance their lives. One of those resources is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes several provisions that benefit current and former foster youth by connecting them to physical and behavioral health services. These changes are particularly important because foster youth are more likely to be diagnosed with developmental disorders and mental illnesses than their peers, but often face challenges receiving consistent care.

In honor of National Foster Care Month and the ACA’s sixth anniversary, we’re sharing a 2015 issue brief entitled “Health-Care Coverage for Youth in Foster Care—and After.” Published by the Children's Bureau’s Child Welfare Information Gateway, the guide outlines the health care needs of current and former foster youth, as well as the following coverage options.

1. Medicaid: Most current and former foster youth are eligible for health care coverage through Medicaid, the government health care program for low-income individuals and families. Young people can qualify for Medicaid a number of ways, such as if they:

  • Receive Title IV-E foster care maintenance payments (up to age 21)
  • Receive Title IV-E guardianship assistance program payments (up to age 21)
  • Are eligible for Title IV-E adoption assistance (up to age 21)
  • Have a household income no more than 133% of the federal poverty line, or a higher income limit established by the state in which they live (up to age 19 in all states and past age 19 for states that expanded Medicaid eligibility)
  • Aged out of foster care in the state in which they currently reside and received Medicaid coverage while still in care (up to age 26)
  • Aged out of foster care in a state that offers the "Chafee option" through the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (up to age 19, 20, or 21, depending on the state)

2. Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Jointly administered by state and federal governments, CHIP offers low-cost health care coverage to youth through age 18 whose families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

3. Private and Marketplace Health Care: Other foster youth may receive health care through an employer or by purchasing coverage through a marketplace health exchange. These options typically apply to young adults who do not qualify for any of the no- or low-cost options listed above.

Read “Health-Care Coverage for Youth in Foster Care—and After.”

You can also check out our past article on helping homeless youth apply for Medicaid.

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