Memorial Day is supposed to be a day of honoring our nation’s veterans. However, a study published May 24 shows that 10 percent of the veterans here in Colorado do not even have health insurance.
One in 10 of the nation’s 12.5 million veterans ages 19-64 report either not having health insurance coverage or using Veterans Affairs (VA) health care, according to the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS). Uninsured Veterans and Family Members: Who Are They and Where Do They Live? - prepared by the Urban Institute and released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation - is the first study to provide estimates of insurance coverage among veterans and their families both nationally and at the state level, and to assess the potential for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to reduce the numbers of veterans without insurance.
According to the study, there are 24,000 (10 percent) uninsured veterans in Colorado, which is consistent with the national average. Another 17,000 family members of veterans lack health insurance in Colorado.
This study comes as the nation awaits a Supreme Court decision, expected in June, on the constitutionality of the ACA. It appears that the ACA could offer new routes to health insurance coverage for veterans and their families. Approximately 49 percent of uninsured veterans in the U.S. and 36 percent of their uninsured family members have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, indicating that they would likely qualify for coverage if the proposed Medicaid expansion proceeds in January 2014.
In addition, more than half of veterans reporting only Veterans Affairs (VA) care could qualify for Medicaid to supplement their VA care under the expansion. Another 40 percent of uninsured veterans and 49 percent of uninsured family members have incomes that could allow them to qualify for new subsidies for coverage through health insurance exchanges provided they do not have access to affordable employer-sponsored insurance.
Regardless of the fate of the ACA, more work needs to be done to ensure that our nation’s veterans are receiving health insurance and needed health care.