Just ask Google. Youth share everything everywhere. I chat, post, blog, and message. When we want to know something, we google, Facebook, and search. Every bill I have, my work, my education, and everything I care about is in my back pocket on my cell and comes by email, an app, text notification, or through social media. One thing that doesn’t fit in my pocket? My mailbox! You know ...the paper mail? I missed an important Medicaid renewal form by not checking my dusty mailbox.
As a former foster youth (FFY), I had been covered by Medicaid through a provision of the Affordable Care Act which allowed me to stay on Medicaid to age 26 for more than 5 years. The provision was designed to ensure FFY, like other youth who can stay on their parent’s insurance. I did not know I might need to renew the policy annually. Every state has unique and different application and renewal practices. It’s complicated!
Simply “not knowing” about health care resources or the need to renew a Medicaid policy in some states may have a significant impact on a young person’s life. Therefore, developing an accessible outreach about health care for current and FFY is important.
Each year, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care or exit care with no other parent than the government. As my “parental figure,” the government needs to talk to me about my available resources. And just like a parent, they need to talk to me in a youth-friendly way.
I spent five-years in the foster care system in Utah. I exited care at age 18. After that I managed to pay for my apartment, finish my MSW at the University of Utah, volunteer, serve as a FosterClub All-Star intern, and get a great job as a Licensed Certified Social Worker. And yet, while sitting in a doctor's office, I learned my insurance wasn’t in effect and wouldn’t cover the visit. I had been without insurance for 3 months. I needed to get online and reapply.
While waiting for my insurance to renew, I paid $75 a month for prescriptions. As a newly employed person, this was a hit that led to a late power bill. For someone else, it might have led to the choice between necessary meds and paying rent.
Like many FFY, I have been out of care now for so many years I don’t have a caseworker or independent living working to go back to for assistance. Many of the students I work with who have experienced care are unaware of this benefit. Having someone we can contact who knows my states FFY health care resources would help. States need a dedicated caseworker to assist former foster youth with Medicaid applications, renewals and to answer questions about eligibility. A consistent, friendly voice who knows about the resources we need. Other helpful strategies include: an app to send us renewal reminders, a central website or dedicated page for FFY with detailed information about health care in a youth-friendly format would keep youth from incurring large medical bills and reduce barriers to our success.
As youth, we live a pretty paper-free existence. Trees are safe with us. States need a youth-friendly point person to assist FFY and accessible, paperless technology. In addition, youth outreach should speak the same language as the youth it seeks to reach to engage us where we live, online.
Christina Andino, MSW, FosterClub Young Leader, 5-years in Utah’s foster care system. Christina rrecently testified at a Congressional Briefing: The Intersection of Medicaid and Child Welfare, organized in coordination with the Congressional Caucus on Foster Care, First Focus: State Policy and Reform Center (SPARC), and FosterClub.