• Japheth

    Miami, Florida

     

    Foster children are entitled to healthcare - Medicaid - until age 26 in Florida. But, no one told Japheth. He found himself with thousands of dollars in medical debt and went without proper care for serious medical conditions until now.

  • 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.

    “I didn’t realize the value of health insurance in general until I needed it so badly," Japheth says. “Honestly, everyone needs health insurance. It should be universal.”

  • Japheth hopes that can happen soon. He recently learned through One Voice IMPAACT, a foster youth advocacy organization that works with Florida Coalition for Children, that he was still entitled to Medicaid health insurance. He applied, got approved and is in the process of selecting a managed healthcare plan.
     
    "I didn’t realize the value of health insurance in general until I needed it so badly," Japheth says. "Honestly, everyone needs health insurance. It should be universal."
     
    For now, Japheth is relieved he has Medicaid. He’s also so grateful that someone guided him and let him know his rights. He doesn’t want others to go through the same pain or incur debt that may haunt them for years.
     
    “I want to share my story,” Japheth says. “I want to be a foster youth advocate to help others.”

  • Read STORIES Of Other Floridians

    Relying On Medicaid

    Children

     

    Pregnant

    Women

    Low-Income

    Parents

    Seniors and People With Disabilities

  • We are grateful to the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) for their support of the

    "Medicaid | The Lived Experience" STORIES Project.