Good health comes with access to health care. Unfortunately, many young people who have been in foster care in Maine do not access health care because they do not have healthcare coverage and do not know they are likely eligible for MaineCare coverage. Additionally, those who have interacted with the health care system may find themselves burdened with bills or even worse, medical debt because they were not able to pay their bills. In many cases, young people who were in the foster care system should not have to pay for these bills. Sadly, medical bills and debts not only create stress, but also lead to negative entries on credit reports and poor credit scores. Poor credit histories and scores can create barriers to accessing credit, services such as cell phone plans, insurance, apartments, and even jobs.
This guide provides staff helping young people who have transitioned out of foster care navigate medical billing and debt. It can also help young people take advantage of health insurance options to prevent future debt. For a young person in or who has been in care, dealing with the financial realities and emotional stress caused by medical bills and debt can be overwhelming. The goal of this guide is to ensure young people are not paying bills that should be covered by insurance or hospital free care. They should only pay medical debts that legitimately belong to them. This protects their financial stability and credit history.
Who should use this guide?
This guide is specifically designed for case managers, other frontline staff, or the adult allies that work with young people that are in or have been in foster care. However, this tool can be used by anyone dealing with medical billing and debt. While some of the information is specific to youth with a foster care history, much of it applies more broadly.
The guide was conceptualized and edited by Becca Matusovich (USM’s Cutler Institute) and was written by Inger Giuffrida (Financial Education and Asset Building Consultant) and Mary Schneckenburger (Consumers for Affordable Healthcare). The information contained within the guide is for educational purposes. The information and tools also do not constitute legal interpretation or advice on the part of the individuals involved or the organizations for which they work.
This guide is being launched in October 2016 as a “FieldTest Version” in order to test its value and usability in the field. We appreciate feedback about how it works in practice to use the guide and whether it contains the information most needed to assist young people dealing with medical bills and debts.