Former Foster Care Youth Get Help Paying For Health Care

Former foster care youth can now get Medicaid coverage in many states.


When Joseph Hill turned 21, he went from being homeless to being homeless and uninsured.

Hill grew up in foster care. He entered the system when he was 3 months old, and lived in 10 different foster homes in San Diego. At 19, he aged out of foster care and faced an abrupt transition into adulthood.

At first he received health insurance under Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid. But those benefits disappeared when he turned 21.

Back then, Hill needed new prescription glasses so he could drive to work and see the board at school. Losing medical coverage meant spending money that he did not have.

“It felt like a low blow — it cost like $400,” Hill says of paying out of pocket for his glasses. “If I had coverage, I could have put that $400 to groceries.”

Joseph Hill now gets health care with Medi-Cal coverage.

hide captionJoseph Hill now gets health care with Medi-Cal coverage.

Courtesy of Joseph Hill

But now, because of a little-known provision in the Affordable Care Act, Hill and other former foster youth can get free health care under Medicaid until age 26, regardless of their income. In some states, coverage includes free vision and dental care. The new provision mirrors a similar Medicaid expansion granted to young adults on their parents’ insurance.

About 55,000 former foster youth are expected to take advantage of the Medicaid expansion this year, and that number is predicted to increase by 2017

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