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Affordable Care Act extends Medicaid coverage for former foster children

Updated: December 23, 2013 9:32PM

While insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion garner headlines, a lesser-known component of the Affordable Care Act may serve as a lifeline for former foster children.

Starting Jan. 1, states are required to allow kids who have aged out of the foster care system to retain Medicaid coverage through age 26. Indiana is one of 30 states that already extends Medicaid coverage through age 21, but the new law means an estimated 5,000 former foster kids will receive coverage, which will cost the state an estimated $3 million, according to the state’s actuarial firm Milliman.

Marni Lemons, spokeswoman for the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said the only requirements for enrollment are that the person must have been in the Indiana foster care system when they turned 18 and they previously were enrolled in Medicaid or a waiver program. Beyond that, there’s no income requirement, she said.

Lemons said the Department of Child Services is aware of the new requirements and has been reaching out to former foster children.

One of the reasons the provision was added to the law is that foster children are unlikely to benefit from an ACA provision which allows children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.

Increased access to health and mental health services is especially important for former foster children since they are more likely to face health challenges as they grow older, according to data from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being.

At a Nov. 4 Gary forum on the Affordable Care Act, Methodist Hospital Vice President of external and governmental affairs Denise Dillard said many young people are hungry for information on benefits they may receive through the law, as she found out when she spoke to a college group.

Under the law, foster youths must select a person — if they do not a have a relative or do not want a relative to fulfill the role — to make medical decisions on their behalf in their transition plans, which are developed in the months prior to aging out of foster care.

“Students who are aging out of foster care — the law is huge for those children,” Dillard said. “They really wanted to know how it impacted them. They must have an attorney representing them in case they are incapacitated due to illness.”

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