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March 22, 2018

Let’s Honor Veterans By Ensuring They Have Access to Affordable Health Care Coverage

More than 10,000 veterans in Virginia could get quality, affordable health care coverage through Medicaid expansion. But only if lawmakers accept federal funds to expand health care coverage. Legislators have the opportunity to show that they too support our veterans by expanding Medicaid when they reconvene for a special legislative session starting April 11th.

It may come as a surprise to many people that those who served our country through military service do not automatically qualify for health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Nationally, less than half of veterans get healthcare through the VA. The Medicaid program is critical for making sure that many veterans have access to health care insurance. Medicaid currently supports more than 31,000 veterans in the commonwealth.

Between 2013 and 2015, the uninsurance rate for nonelderly veterans fell by almost 40 percent, and gains in health care coverage were greater in states that had expanded Medicaid. In states that expanded Medicaid, the uninsurance rate for vets fell nearly 50 percent from 2013 to 2015. This compares to a smaller decline of about 30 percent for non-expansion states. This impacted the families of veterans as well who also saw increases in health care coverage.

The Medicaid program is the only source of coverage for many veterans. It also serves to supplement care for many more. If a VA facility is not within close proximity, Medicaid will help veterans to see a doctor nearby. And since veterans are more likely to experience complex health needs, Medicaid coverage can help to reduce the cost of care which often serves as a barrier to receiving medical care. Expanding Medicaid would not only provide coverage for more veterans, but could also increase access and utilization of health care.

As we celebrate the inaugural Women’s Veterans Week in Virginia, it is important to note that women are the fastest growing group within the veteran population. And to truly honor the sacrifices made on behalf of our state and country, it is important to ensure that all veterans receive the care they need before, during, and after their time of service.

Health Care

Sherri Egerton

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