250,000 veterans could miss out on ACA coverage

At least 250,000 U.S. veterans won't get insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Stateline Health News reported, putting financial strain on the healthcare industry in general and at the hospitals where they obtain care in particular.

Altogether, 40 percent of veterans have incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, according to Kaiser Health News. But Stateline noted that hundreds of thousands of them live in states that do not plan to expand the Medicaid program.

Veterans are susceptible to conditions such as substance dependency or post-traumatic stress disorder, which often requires closely coordinated care that is difficult to obtain if they lack insurance. Kenneth Kizer, who oversaw the VA during the 1990s, told Stateline he's concerned that a mix of civilian and VA-oriented care is likely to lead to more hospitalizations, which could drive up uncompensated care costs.

Even veterans enrolled in the VA system tend to access costly emergency room care at far higher rates than average.

According to the Urban Institute, as many as 535,000 veterans and 174,000 of their spouses would be able to enroll in Medicaid if all states participated in the expansion. In states such as Ohio, expanding Medicaid would cut the number of uninsured veterans by half, according to ABC 6 News.

Altogether, about 1.3 million veterans lack insurance nationwide, according to Stateline. And despite the fact that income eligibility for VA benefits are less stringent than Medicaid, many are ineligible for coverage because they did not serve in the military long enough to qualify. Stateline reported that only 66,000 veterans are expected to apply for VA benefits in order to avoid the tax penalty for being uninsured.

To learn more:
- read the Stateline Health News article
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- read the Urban Institute study (.pdf)
- read the ABC 6 News article

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