As AARP works to support Medicaid expansion in Michigan, a recent report by the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that more than 25,000 currently uninsured Michigan veterans and spouses would receive health coverage if Medicaid is expanded under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Currently, Michigan legislators are debating the merits of Medicaid expansion, with a decision expected in the coming weeks. Gov. Rick Snyder supports extending Medicaid to 470,000 uninsured Michigan residents.
“As we honor our veterans on this Memorial Day, we can provide much-needed help to those who have served our nation by expanding affordable health care coverage to veterans currently without health insurance,” said Jacqueline Morrison, AARP Michigan state director. “AARP is fighting for affordable health coverage in Michigan to help veterans, as well as the 75,000 hard-working 50 to 64 year olds who are struggling without health insurance.”
The report, “Uninsured Veterans and Family Members: Who Are They and Where Do They Live?”, says there are 1.3 million veterans under age 65 uninsured in the United States, and about 40 percent of those could qualify for health coverage through Medicaid expansion.
“Our uninsured veterans’ health care coverage depends upon Medicaid expansion, and they deserve our support so they get it,” Morrison said.
Many assume that all veterans receive Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care coverage, but that’s not the case. VA care is out of reach for low-income veterans who do not live near VA facilities or are unaware that VA care is available. In addition, VA eligibility is determined by other factors including service-related disabilities and income, and many veterans make too much money to qualify for VA assistance, but not enough to afford insurance on their own. Most spouses of veterans do not qualify for VA assistance or for Medicaid under current requirements.
The need for care is particularly great for veterans who often have chronic health problems that may go untreated because they lack insurance coverage. According to the report, one-third of uninsured veterans nationally have at least one chronic health problem, over 40 percent have unmet medical needs and more than a third have delayed getting needed care because of high costs. Uninsured veterans’ families would also benefit from Medicaid expansion – the report says that more than half of those family members have unmet medical needs.
Medicaid expansion under the ACA allows states to extend coverage to individuals with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $15,000 for an individual and $32,000 for a family of four. In Michigan, about 20,100 veterans are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, and would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if Michigan lawmakers choose expansion. Additionally, 5,700 spouses of veterans could qualify for coverage if Michigan approves Medicaid expansion.
The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in Michigan for the first three years and that figure gradually moves to 90 percent thereafter, pumping significant money into the state’s economy. It will also generate significant cost savings, providing access to preventive care that veterans and their families need while reducing the need for expensive emergency room care and related overcrowding.
“Medicaid expansion would benefit many in our state, but our veterans and their families in particular deserve to get the health care they need,” Morrison said. “The truth is we’re not doing enough for our veterans, and we can help fix that by supporting Medicaid expansion in Michigan.”
In addition to supporting state veterans and their families, AARP is also fighting for Medicaid expansion in Michigan by joining a coalition that supports expansion; sending letters of support to key legislators and testifying before legislative committees; meeting with lawmakers and administration officials; sending volunteers to legislative offices; running newspaper ads; supporting Medicaid expansion on social media; sending direct mail and email to legislators and AARP activists; and working with volunteers to make calls, send emails and letters to the editor on the issue.