Nearly 11,000 Kentucky veterans without health insurance and thousands of their family members could gain coverage if the state moves forward with the Medicaid expansion currently under consideration, according to a new policy brief by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP).
1.3 million U.S. veterans—including 22,000 here in Kentucky—lack health insurance. Nationally, almost half of these veterans would qualify for coverage if all states expand Medicaid eligibility, according to a study released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute.
“Veterans put their health and lives at risk while serving in the armed forces, but some lack health insurance once back to civilian life,” said KCEP Director Jason Bailey. “The Medicaid expansion is an opportunity to improve their health and well-being by allowing them the dignity and security of coverage.”
Many people assume that all veterans receive health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which operates a system of medical centers, clinics and other facilities that provide high-quality care and specifically address veterans’ health care needs. However, only about 37 percent of the country’s more than 22 million veterans receive health coverage through the VA.
“Right now, Kentucky’s uninsured veterans—especially those with low incomes—have very limited options for gaining health insurance,” said Bailey. “Many can’t get health insurance through their employer; private insurance is often prohibitively expensive; and Kentucky offers only very limited Medicaid coverage to adults.”
Kentucky has the option of expanding Medicaid to adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion the first three years and at least 90 percent of the cost in the following years.
The governor has not announced whether he will move forward with the Medicaid expansion. According to a recent poll by the American Cancer Society, 63 percent of Kentuckians want the state to expand Medicaid while only 23 percent are opposed.
The policy brief can be accessed at www.kypolicy.org.