Medicaid to 26: Reaching out to Former Foster Youth

By Kari Siddiqui, Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy

One of the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turned 26. However, less talked about are the strides the ACA made for youth who were in foster care. Recognizing that young adults who have aged-out of foster care also need access to health insurance, and are unlikely to have the option of receiving it through family, the ACA provides Medicaid access to youth who were in foster care, without income requirements, until their 26th birthday.

This Medicaid to 26 provision went into effect in January 2014 and offers health insurance coverage to the more than 20,000 youth who age out of foster care each year. In New York State 1,283 youth aged-out of foster care and were emancipated in 2012. These young adults particularly need health coverage as they transition from foster care into their independent adult lives.

At the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, we are working to ensure that young adults can take advantage of this benefit. Together with our state partners, the New York State Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services, Schuyler Center developed materials to help youth understand and access this benefit. Youth themselves – those still in care and those who have aged-out – are essential partners in this work. These young people are helping us to shape the message, target outreach, and design materials. Their input helps us understand how to reach youth where they are, and communicate in effective ways. By working with youth we learned the following outreach and engagement strategies:

  • Use peers! Peers are the best ‘messengers’ and can make it real with their own stories
  • Create a ‘buzz’ through youth networks
  • Use social media
  • Develop dynamic messages about why insurance works for them and not about it being ‘good for you’

Schuyler Center used this advice to develop outreach and education material to ensure that youth who have left foster care take advantage of this benefit. Schuyler Center’s outreach and education material include a brochure with an application checklist, newsletter articles, videos, and just released an Everything You Need to Know guide for youth, as well as a toolkit for providers. Please join us in these outreach efforts, and use the materials we’ve created to reach youth in New York State and in your communities across the country. For more information, follow the Schulyer Center on Twitter @SchuylerCenter or visit their website: