I spent four years in the foster care system in Las Vegas due to negligence and abuse. In 2010, I aged out of foster care at age 18 and lost my health insurance.
Then I ended up in the hospital.
My hemoglobin had dropped to critical level after years of internal bleeding. I had been dealing with this internal bleeding for about a year and a half at this point, but because I did not have insurance, I didn’t go to the hospital until it was critical.
When I got to the hospital I was told that I would need a blood transfusion, due to the internal bleeding. I had to go through various tests and I ended up staying in the hospital for a week.
While in the hospital I knew I would be facing a huge medical bill that I just could not afford because I did not have health insurance and I did not have a job that provided assistance.
Following this first hospital stay, I would end up having two more hospital stays to attempt to find out why I was having these bleeding problems at which time I was given another blood transfusion. There were times I wanted to just give up and give in.
The transfusions were keeping me alive but when the debt from the procedures kept piling up I wasn’t sure what to do. I was in college and started to think dropping out, finding a job to pay my medical bills and taking care of my health were my only option.
In 2015, I learned that former foster youth can get free health insurance from the state until they are 26 years old – just like youth who are covered under their parents’ plan. I signed up and got covered right away. By this time I had already acquired about $50,000 in medical debt, and to my surprise, my new insurance paid it off (because I was supposed to be covered at age 18).
It changed my life. Without the provision in the ACA that allows foster youth to be covered under the state’s Medicaid plan, I fear I would have dropped out of school and been unable to get the proper treatment.
The repeal and replacement of ACA would have very measurable consequences for some young adults in America, particularly young people who have experienced foster care and are among the nation’s most vulnerable population. Youth who age out of foster care experience a particularly difficult time transitioning into adulthood and health insurance is an essential to ensuring that we can achieve education, employment, and financial stability.
I am one former foster youth out of tens of thousands who stand to lose their health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. I call on Congress to remember our nation’s most vulnerable youth – foster youth – as they consider repealing or reforming the Affordable Care Act.
This article first appeared on the FosterClub website.
Dashun Jackson, a FosterClub Young Leader, entered foster care at the age of 13 with his three younger siblings, but was later separated from siblings after living in an abusive home. Multiple placements, including the local shelter, his aunt’s home, a psychiatric facility and a residential treatment home, caused Dashun to move through four different schools while in care. While at a shelter, Dashun attended a school that did not provide credits, causing him to fall further behind in school. Dashun credits a mentor from a group home for teaching him about his culture and the gift of philanthropy.