I frequently speak to Missourians about the work that Empower Missouri does and provide training on legislative advocacy. In these conversations, I often talk about the people who are affected by policy. I ask the group if they rode public transportation today, or if they drove on streets or highways. I ask if they breathed the air outside, purchased drinks from a coffee shop, or sent their children to a school or daycare.
All of our lives are influenced by public policy. Empower Missouri specifically focuses on those who have a hard time providing for their basic needs, but every person in Missouri can be affected by the policies that we advocate for or work against.
This past legislative session, there was one policy fix that particularly interested me. I am the mother of two children adopted from foster care in another state. This particular path to parenthood means my children and I have many additional stresses, compared to parents and children who have never experienced adoption or the trauma of foster care. Health care was not supposed to be one of those stresses, because state sponsored health care is usually available to all children who are adopted from or age out of the foster care system.
When the Affordable Care Act passed, an unforeseen pitfall to the system was created. While many of these young adults would be able to stay on Medicaid until they were 26, children who were adopted from one state’s foster care system and then moved to another state were not eligible for the expanded timeline of coverage. This appears to have been a drafting glitch and not by evil design.
This was concerning to me even though my children were healthy. Then a swollen wrist changed everything. When my twelve-year-old son shoved his arm in my face, I assumed he had sprained it. When ice and rest didn’t address the issue, we went to urgent care after school. They sent us on to the Emergency Room for the first of many, many tests. All told, in April of 2019, my son spent 16 days in inpatient care before finally receiving a diagnosis. Crohn’s Disease will not take his life, thankfully. However, he suddenly needed access to life-long health care like never before.
In the final week of the legislative session, I was so glad to hear amendments added to an assortment of bills including SB 514 and HB 397 that would address this gap. After all, my child had racked up tens of thousands of dollars of medical bills lately and would someday be in his twenties when the glitch could deprive him of coverage. We are extremely fortunate due to present coverage to be able to say yes to every recommended test, procedure, and new medication (including monthly infusions that run over $10,000 each). I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and gratitude, the kind that maybe only parents can understand, when those bills were signed by Governor Parson this month.
Every parent deserves that kind of relief. Every parent should be able to say yes to taking care of their child, despite the cost.
Currently, 45% of all children in Missouri are covered by MO HealthNet (Missouri’s Medicaid program). Many of these children will lose access at age 19, even if their financial situation hasn’t changed, because their parents have no insurance coverage to which they can apply. Further, many children younger than 19 who still qualify are being kicked off the rolls, likely because of administrative changes related to recertification. Missouri has the unfortunate distinction of having the largest percentage of children lose coverage in the nation.
Fixing the loophole for young adults adopted from foster care in other states is important, and for many it is life-changing. But public policy affects everyone, and there is much more to be done.