Both physical and mental health issues are common among foster youth and those who have aged out of the child welfare system.
The Congressional Research Service reports that 35-60% of youth in foster care have chronic or acute medical conditions requiring treatment, with up to 15% suffering from illnesses that limit their daily activities. A recent study found that individuals who spend their adolescent years in foster care were more than twice as likely to experience mental health problems.
Despite these health risks, however, current and former foster youth have significantly limited access to health care – more than 40% report that they do not have health insurance.
Under the Affordable Care Act, all youth who aged out of foster care will be eligible for full Medicaid benefits until they are 26 years old. This provision applies to all current foster youth and those who have aged out since 2007.
The implementing agency suggests that states: cover youth who were in care in other states; automatically enroll youth in Medicaid before they age out; implement a one-time eligibility determination to have continuous coverage until they turn 26; conduct an outreach campaign to inform eligible youth about the new regulations; educate child welfare agencies about these provisions; and work with Medicaid offices to arrange for continuing care after the age of 26.