Medicaid Expansion Could Provide 1.3 Million Veterans with the Care America Owes Them

May 30, 2013, 2:16 PM, Posted by

Military soldier soluting the flag.

This past weekend, many of us enjoyed a great Memorial Day holiday filled with family, fun, and backyard barbecues.

Others, such as National Journal's Major Garrett visited somber war memorials. In his “All Powers” column, Garrett writes poignantly and passionately about our combat veterans—reflections inspired by a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington.

In How We Could Do More For Our Vets, Garrett writes about the health struggles of his cousin, a Vietnam vet, and the level of care that our nation owes to a generation of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Garrett’s thought-provoking piece is worth your time.

As I read his column, I was reminded how surprised I was earlier this spring when I read an RWJF/Urban Institute report on the prospects for covering 1.3 million uninsured veterans and their families under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Wait just a second, I thought. All the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our country have access to the health care they need through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), right?


According to Urban’s Jennifer Haley and Genevieve Kenney, “priority is based on service-related disabilities, income, and other factors. Many low-income veterans eligible for VA care may not live close to VA facilities or may not know that VA care is available. Most spouses of veterans do not qualify for VA care, and many also do not qualify for Medicaid under the current requirements, which vary by state.”

But there is good news. The ACA’s Medicaid expansion means a “substantial increase in Medicaid eligibility for uninsured veterans,” according to the authors. In other words, 1.3 million vets could be in a position to secure public health insurance beginning in 2014.

Unfortunately, less than half of these uninsured vets will actually receive coverage because they live in states that are likely to reject Medicaid expansion. Wow.

It might be too much to ask Americans to add policy articles to their summer reading stack, but I urge you to spend a few minutes with Garrett's piece and the RWJF/Urban Institute report.

And when you do, think about what America’s veterans deserve from our nation.

Brent Thompson is a communications officer working with RWJF's Coverage team.