Foster child insurance qualification could help hospitals

A well-known provision of the Affordable Care Act allows children to stay on their parents' health insurance policy until the age of 26. But children without parents enjoy the same option, according to Stateline.

Foster children, who typically age out of state-run systems that oversee their welfare when they turn 18, are able to obtain free health insurance coverage through Medicaid until they are 26, with no restrictions regarding their income. The policy affects about 180,000 current and former foster system children nationwide, with another 26,000 or so former foster children qualifying annually, according to Stateline.

The rule change is beneficial for hospitals, which prefer Medicaid coverage to none at all. Many former foster children struggle to obtain employment with benefits or that pays enough for them to purchase insurance coverage, and up to 20 percent of them wind up homeless after aging out of the system. They often also grapple with potentially expensive health issues: Between 35 percent and 60 percent of former foster children have one or more chronic health conditions, and between half and three-quarters may have a mental health issue that requires some form of treatment.

However, there have apparently been some bumps in getting aged-out foster children to enroll in Medicaid, according to Stateline, noting that few states make such enrollments a priority. Florida has all but ignored the requirement, while California has gone so far as to enroll those who were foster children in other states. It leads the nation in enrollments, at more than 20,000. At least six states, including Florida, Texas and Oregon, bar out-of-state foster care enrollees. Their combined enrollment figures barely match California's.

The foster children enrollment issues add to the trend that a dearth of younger adults are obtaining insurance coverage under the ACA.

"The states we've heard from have far fewer enrollees than expected," Shadi Houshyar, vice president at the children's advocacy group First Focus, told the publication. "There's a knowledge gap out there. States need an instruction manual."

To learn more:
- read the Stateline article