Long overdue foster care reforms have passed as part of the North Carolina General Assembly’s budget.

The budget provision, which is expected to become law this week, will create a statewide system of healthcare for families in the state’s foster care system.

The Affordable Healthcare Coalition of North Carolina scored the standalone foster care reform legislation that was put forward in both the House and Senate.

The effort and work done by lawmakers to ensure these reforms were included in the budget will be factored into their Affordable Healthcare Scorecard grades at the close of the legislative session.

Currently, children and families in foster care are subject to a regional system and, as a result, often don’t get the quality, well-coordinated care they need. Once enacted, the legislation will allow the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to move forward with a single, statewide healthcare plan for families and children in the foster care system.

The changes will result in quality improvements for families, and lower costs for taxpayers.

Care Improvements

Under the current system, healthcare for foster children is managed by local entities known as LME-MCOs. LME-MCOs have local networks of doctors and support personnel. And while locally focused care may seem like a good idea, it presents several quality control problems.

First and foremost, not all local networks are created equal.

Children and families in rural areas often cannot get the support and resources available to those in urban areas.

Secondly, children in the foster care system are mobile, often moving from one region to another.

As children move from one regional network of care to another, it causes care to be disrupted, duplicated or both.

According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), “[o]ne of the most significant challenges to service delivery for children, youth and families served by the child welfare system is disruption in provider relationships” due to the regional nature of the system.  

Cost Improvements

Costs are also negatively impacted by the regional system.

Duplicative and disrupted care is inefficient and more expensive.

Foster children are already one of the higher-cost populations for healthcare needs.

Those costs are compounded when tests are lost, immunizations are given multiple times, and previous conditions are poorly documented and shared.

Those excess costs are passed onto taxpayers and healthcare consumers.

Moving to a statewide system means better care for children and families, a more efficient use of tax dollars, and an end to the urban-rural divide that right now plagues the system.

We commend the lawmakers and stakeholders who have worked hard over the past several years to make these reforms possible.  

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