Texas Could Be Denying Health Insurance to Former Foster Youth

Texas is kicking former foster youth off their Medicaid plans after age 21.

By Joy DiazNovember 17, 2015 12:19 pm,

Jasmine Johnson, a 20-year-old expectant mother, gave birth in January. She didn’t just bring home a baby girl after her visit to the hospital – she also brought home a $1,500 medical bill she couldn’t afford.

The Texas Tribune’s Edgar Walters reports that Johnson had been, unbeknownst to her, dropped from her health insurance coverage. Johnson, a former foster youth, had been covered under Medicaid, but the day she turned 21, Texas dropped her plan.

Walters says under the Affordable Care Act, children are allowed to stay under their parent’s health insurance coverage until the age of 26. Since the state of Texas was officially Johnson’s legal guardian until she aged out of the system at 18, Walters says she technically should have stayed on Medicaid automatically.

“These former foster care youth have every right to stay on state-sponsored health coverage, or Medicaid, until they’re 26,” Walters says. “But the way that it’s set up in Texas is the state can just kick them off and make them reapply.”

Walters says Texas would say former foster care youth are more than welcome to sign back up for health coverage, if they are uninsured through a job or otherwise. The problem with that sentiment, Walters says, is two-fold.

“Advocates for former foster care children will tell you it can be quite difficult for the state to keep track of these people,” Walters says. There have been many instances where former foster care youth are asking the state to continue to provide them coverage beyond the age of 21, and sort of inexplicably, the state actually was denying that request.”

This was the case with Johnson, Walters says. After the hospital sent her home with a large bill, she contacted the state to try to renew her Medicaid three separate times. Each time a state employee denied her request.

What’s the disconnect? Walters says maybe state employees aren’t aware of the ACA provision that allows for continued health coverage for foster youth.

“It’ s important to point out that advocates who work with these former foster care youth say that in every case that they’ve discovered, when they tell state officials that they have wrongly kicked foster youth off their health insurance, the state has gone and fixed that problem,” Walter says.

Johnson did finally get her health insurance back, Walters says, “but there are potentially hundreds or thousands of cases that we just don’t know about.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.