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Bill would create statewide health coverage for children in foster care

 The Jones Street entrance to the North Carolina General Assembly building in downtown Raleigh.
Jason deBruyn
The Jones Street entrance to the North Carolina General Assembly building in downtown Raleigh.

Under legislation filed at the NC General Assembly, a statewide insurance network would be created to provide care for the more than 11,000 people currently in the foster-care system.

Presently kids in foster care are covered by Medicaid through a patchwork of local entities. However, lawmakers say when children move between homes they cannot keep therapists, and that updating prescriptions has become challenging, and even getting up-to-date immunization records has proven difficult.

"We all need to be talking about this a lot more," said state Sen. Jim Burgin (R-Harnett). "I just don't know how we cannot fix this. We have the money right now. Especially if we expand Medicaid, we're going to have an extra billion and a half dollars."

Current care for children in the foster care system is administered by six Local Management Entities and Managed Care Organizations – so-called LME/MCOs.

House Bill 144 is part of the larger Medicaid transformation that has been taking place, technically independent from a proposal to expand Medicaid. But, as Burgin notes, if expansion does take place it would provide additional funds, some of which he would like to see be used as an investment toward children in foster care.

"If we don't invest in them now and straighten out these situations, we're going to be dealing with it long term – with either incarceration or drug use or other issues, pregnancies," he said. "It's just one of those things we've got to deal with."

Burgin said he expected the bill to be voted on by the full Senate later this week.

Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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