Uninsured Veterans May Be Helped by Affordable Care Act

On this Veteran’s Day, The Washington Post reports that one out of every ten veterans does not have health insurance.  In Sarah Kliff’s article “One in 10 veterans lacks health insurance. Obamacare could change that.,” she says that the expansion of Medicare could be the biggest game changer for veterans without health insurance.  Despite the fact that the Veterans Health Administration is the biggest health care system in the United States, not all veterans are receiving care at their 1,700 hospitals.  Some veterans don’t qualify because they have to serve for 24 consecutive months in order to qualify for coverage from the Veterans Health Administration.  Others don’t meet other specific requirements, including disability and income.

There are 1.3 million veterans who do not currently have health insurance.  In addition to that, there are more than 900,000 veteran family members who are uninsured.  But veterans actually have a lower uninsured rate than the national average of 18%.  While 10% of veterans are uninsured, it doesn’t mean that all of those people don’t qualify for Veterans Health Administration benefits.  Some people don’t know they qualify, others think the process of applying is too complicated, and some veterans may live too far from the facilities to use them.  Those veterans who are uninsured are typically younger than insured veterans and have lower levels of education and higher rates of unemployment.  That isn’t really surprising, but explains in greater detail why some Veterans are uninsured.

So how might the Affordable Care Act help to insure some of these uninsured veterans?  A recent report estimated that 40% of those uninsured veterans will now qualify for Medicaid under the new poverty guidelines.  Unfortunately for some veterans, 24 states are not currently planning to expand Medicaid.  Even so, hundreds of thousands of veterans may be able to receive health insurance under the expanded Medicaid system.  Many of their family members will also qualify for insurance coverage.  Researchers also wouldn’t be surprised if the VA started changing their policies regarding health insurance coverage.  This remains to be seen of course because this is all uncharted territory, but expansion of health insurance overall might mean some expansion at the Veterans Health Administration.

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