For Immediate Release
May 20, 2020
Contact: Mariah Craven | [email protected] | 404-975-7084

National Foster Youth Institute Urges Congress to Pass “The Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act”
Bill Named After Former Foster Youth Who Passed Away from COVID-19 Would Guarantee Medicaid Coverage for Former Foster Youth Until Age 26

Washington, DC: On Friday, Representatives Karen Bass (D-CA) and Gwen Moore (D-WI) will introduce The Dosha Joi Immediate Coverage for Former Foster Youth Act, which would ensure that former foster youth have Medicaid until the age of 26. The bill is named after Dosha “DJay” Joi, a former foster youth, child welfare advocate, and nursing student who passed away in Milwaukee on May 14, 2020 due to COVID-19-related complications.

DJay spent 10 years in group and foster homes and had health complications that he battled into adulthood. In spite of these challenges, DJay was a tireless advocate for children in foster care. He joined the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) and strengthened advocacy skills that he used in his home state of Wisconsin and in Washington, DC, where he shared his personal story and called for change on Capitol Hill during NFYI’s annual Congressional Shadow Day.

“Children in foster care often face extraordinary health challenges due to years of trauma, abuse, and neglect,” said Sally Fairman, executive director of NFYI. “COVID-19 is showing us the deadly effects of disparities in health care. As this pandemic continues, it’s critical that we make sure everyone in this vulnerable population has the coverage and care they need.”

The Affordable Care Act extended Medicaid coverage to age 26 for all foster youth who were in foster care on their 18th birthday and were already enrolled in Medicaid. The intent was to match another ACA requirement that health insurance companies provide coverage for children up to age 26 who are on their parents’ private health care plans. However, if a young adult who was in foster care moves outside the state where they were in care, they often lose their health insurance unless their new state agrees to continue it.

In 2018, a provision included in the bipartisan SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act fixed this “glitch” — but it won’t go into effect until 2023. This will be too late for thousands of former foster youth who need health insurance while we are under a national health emergency because of COVID-19.

“On behalf of children and young adults across our country, I urge Congress to pass DJay’s Bill as soon as they can,” said Fairman. “DJay was a fighter. He fought for children, for change, and for his life. Now it’s up to Congress to take up his fight and ensure that no former foster youth falls through the cracks of our healthcare system.”

Text of the bill is available here.

About NFYI: The National Foster Youth Institute aims to transform the child welfare system and vastly improve outcomes for foster youth by empowering youth and their families, building a nationwide grassroots movement, and partnering with committed policymakers. Truly transformative foster care reform will not come to fruition until the individuals who have personally experienced the child welfare system have a strong voice in the policymaking process.