Fostering Health: The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Youth Transitioning from Foster Care
Publication Date: October 2016
A provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires states to
continue to provide health insurance to young people who have aged
out of the foster care system until their 26
th birthday. Although the intent of the provision
is to mirror the extended coverage available to young adults whose
parents have private health insurance, varying interpretations of
the provision by states have effectively blocked these youth
formerly in foster care from accessing their federally mandated
An estimated 180,000 young people who have aged out of the foster care system are eligible for extended health care coverage. However, only 13 states have made Medicaid coverage available to all former foster youth who reside in their state, regardless of the state in which they aged out.
The policy brief provides an overview of the health needs of young people in and aging out of foster care; describes the coverage to be provided to former foster youth via the ACA, the restrictions that have been applied, and the major reason for opposition to coverage; and makes recommendations to legislators and states for removing barriers to access. The brief also highlights the need to ensure that young people have the knowledge and skills to use their health care coverage.