I attribute my life and success to an important provision granting Medicaid to former foster youth (FFY) until they reach age 26. Maslow proposed that if basic physiological needs like air, water, sleep, and shelter aren’t met, it can be hard to think about anything else. In my case you can add one more thing to the list of basic physiological needs: health care. If I don’t take one of the more than 8 medications I have been prescribed, see my family doctor every couple months, and check into the hospital about 6 times a year, I won’t survive. I received my final diagnosis after several trips to the Mayo clinic. I have a long list of chronic stomach conditions, including severe gastroparesis, pelvic floor dysfunction, cyclical vomiting as a result of S.M.A syndrome, as well as other digestive issues which require lifetime monitoring and care.
If foster youth aren’t connected to an adoptive family, and we age out or exit care on or after our 18th birthday, we qualify for Medicaid until age 26, just like other young people who are allowed to stay on their parent’s insurance until they reach age 26. Without this valuable health care benefit I would have incurred insurmountable debt or avoided going to the hospital for life saving care when I needed it.
I was in and out of foster care until I turned 21, exiting care without finding an adoptive family. Even though I experienced eighteen different placements and went to fourteen different schools by the time I aged out, I defied the odds by graduating high school early and going on independent living at seventeen. I just graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Social Work and a minor in Communication. I made the Dean’s List twice, worked, and continued to advocate for foster youth. I did all this while battling chronic illnesses and PTSD.
As I transition to adulthood, I realize Medicaid gave me the ability to succeed and take care of my unique health care needs. I have hope for my future. I am strong and resourceful, but very concerned for other foster youth in the same situation. I believe all FFY deserve health care until 26. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics one third of all foster youth have a chronic health condition like I do. Health care plays a key role in removing barriers to FFY success. I feel so strongly about the importance of Medicaid for FFY, I recently testified at a Congressional Briefing about the importance of health care.
Maslow was right. My key physiological needs must be met in order for me to climb higher on the pyramid of life and achieve success. Health care is a key physiological need that sustains my life so I can enjoy food, housing, and continue to breathe. It is my hope that policymakers recognize the importance of health care and work to sustain the Medicaid to 26 provision benefiting FFY.
Laticia Aossey, BSW, FosterClub Young Leader, 18-years in Iowa foster care system. Laticia recently 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.