Foster Care Children Denied Access to Healthcare Throughout the Country
One night last month, among about 70 foster care children and youths under Georgia state supervision sleeping in hotels was a 9-year-old boy with autism who had talked about killing himself. He and the other children lacked permanent placements and often weren’t getting help for their complex mental and behavioral needs, said Audrey Brannen, coordinator of complex care for Georgia’s child welfare agency.
In August, Candice Broce, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services, wrote an angry six-page letter to the state Medicaid agency due to the intolerable gaps in care. This was an extraordinary sign of interagency disagreement. She asserted that Elevance Health's Amerigroup had not been adequately held to account for their shortcomings in care, and that their foster care agreement should not be extended.
In Broce's words, it can be simply stated that the state's children who are the most disadvantaged are unable to obtain the physical, mental, and behavioral health care that they need and merit.
Sandy Santana, executive director of the national advocacy group Children's Rights, states that such problems are not limited to Georgia. Headlines regarding foster care often focus on cases of abuse or neglect—even deaths—but the lack of adequate health care provided to these children by states and insurers happens largely without public attention.
The majority of kids in foster care are able to receive Medicaid, a state and federal program that assists those with low incomes; however, it is up to the states to determine how it is administered. At least 10 states, including Georgia, have partnered with managed-care companies to provide specialized services solely for foster children and other individuals under the state's supervision. North Carolina, New Mexico, and Oklahoma are all taking similar measures. At least three more states are doing the same. Despite the organizational set-up, Santana highlighted that many of these at-risk children have trouble receiving care in a timely manner.
Santana, whose organization has taken legal action in more than 20 states regarding issues in foster care, commented that “there are some children who repeatedly cycle through emergency rooms, while others are not receiving the necessary services.” This is a widespread problem across the nation.
Since 2020, Illinois has paid the insurance giant Centene Corp. more than $350 million to manage health coverage for over 35,000 current and former foster care kids. In 2019, the Illinois Answers Project newsroom conducted an investigation and discovered that Centene's YouthCare unit had neglected to provide essential medical services, such as dental appointments and immunizations, to thousands of children.
0. “Critics cite failures in health care for foster children” Yahoo News, 26 Jan. 2023, https://news.yahoo.com/critics-cite-failures-health-care-045900136.html
1. “Unmet needs: Critics cite failures in health care for vulnerable foster children – The Current” The Current GA, 25 Jan. 2023, https://thecurrentga.org/2023/01/25/unmet-needs-critics-cite-failures-in-health-care-for-vulnerable-foster-children/