By Marissa Evans
Tue, Feb 11 2014
Chris and Alicia Johnson have 10 kids -- three biological, five adopted out of foster care and two foster children -- all under one roof on the outskirts of Orlando, Fla.
While providing love, support and encouragement for their foster kids, they’ve sometimes run into roadblocks trying to get them health care, including needed mental health services, because few providers take Medicaid insurance. Another problem? Not being able to take foster children in different health care plans to the same doctors.
Those difficulties are not unusual for the nation’s nearly 400,000 foster children, whose health care can be complicated by cycling from one placement to another, undiagnosed childhood trauma and a failure to receive preventive care, according to experts.
They face an array of problems. According to the National Institute for Health Care Management, nearly 60 percent have at least one chronic disease, and nearly 70 percent have moderate to severe mental health disorders.
Florida is creating a special Medicaid plan to closely manage the care of this population, beginning in May. The plan is designed to cover the estimated 31,600 Florida children in the welfare system, including those in foster care, placed with relatives or in group homes. In the Miami-Dade and Monroe region alone, there are 3,125 children eligible, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).
In Florida, foster children are automatically enrolled in Medicaid, the joint-state federal health program. Sunshine Health, a subsidiary of Centene Corp., is responsible for Florida’s Child Welfare Specialty Plan. The five-year contract is valued at $1.1 billion, according to agency officials.
Sunshine Health said it is taking a holistic approach, covering physical and behavioral health, dental care and other services, with a network of more than 30,000 providers. Care managers help oversee children’s social needs, as well as their health.
“It’s all integrated,” said Sunshine Health CEO Chris Paterson. “If there’s a missing piece of health care, say a child is missing a vaccine, the community-based person is going to know that and help us get that child to the doctor.”