In the midst of writing a story about former foster youth eligible for Medicaid, I called around to find out what other states were doing.
In Oklahoma, an estimated 2,300 former foster youth are now eligible to remain on the state’s Medicaid program until age 26. However, only a fraction has signed up since Jan. 1, in part, because of technology glitches.
Tricia Brooks, senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said in our interview that although a lot of states are having difficulties implementing these Medicaid changes, California has made a lot of progress.
For example, the state has a one-page application for former foster youth to enroll in the Medicaid program, streamlining the process. Without that application, the alternate option would be for youth to fill out a lengthy application, even though their eligibility has nothing to do with their income, one of the primary ways a person usually qualifies for Medicaid.
Also, child advocates in California have created a website titled “Covered ‘til 26,” which is the envy of some child advocates in Oklahoma.
The website is targeted at teaching young people about how they can enroll in the state’s Medicaid plan.
Kimberly Lewis, managing attorney at the National Health Law Program California office, said the website is one example of how advocates, county officials and state leaders have worked together to better ensure young people get coverage before they age out of foster care and are more difficult to locate.
Lewis said the idea and purpose behind allowing former foster youth to stay on Medicaid until age 26 wasn’t to just make it easy to apply.
Rather, Lewis points out an important distinction.
“It was to have them not lose coverage in the first instance,” Lewis said. “… You should be on and stay on until age 26 – that should be the main message for this program in any state. Don’t let kids fall off now that they’ve left the foster care system, so then you don’t have to worry about going out and finding them again. That’s the whole purpose – we don’t have to find you because you’re already here.”