Sometimes what you don’t know can really hurt you.
That’s the case with Japheth Kariuki, 25, a former foster child, part-time college student, and striving Florida resident who has incurred thousands in medical debt in his short life because the State of Florida failed to inform him of his rights.
Foster children are entitled to healthcare – Medicaid – until age 26 in Florida. But no one told Japheth.
“I had no guidance,” Japheth says of his growing into adulthood without parents who might have cared and guided him. Instead, he went from foster homes into the custody of his older sister after his mom went to prison when he was 14.
“I don’t believe I had health insurance at all growing up,” he says. But he did have plenty of medical needs. As a result of several car accidents that required medical attention, including prolonged physical therapy, Japheth incurred medical debt from emergency room visits. Due to his medical debt he wasn't able to get the physical therapy he needed to fully recover.
Japheth also suffers from serious intestinal issues which required corrective surgery in his early twenties. At the time, however, he had health insurance through a job. But when he returned to college, he lost his insurance and couldn’t continue follow-up care. He needs future specialist care and more surgery.