Tens of Thousands of Pa. Veterans Could Obtain Health Insurance Under Medicaid Expansion

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Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania veterans—and their families—could gain health insurance if state policymakers take a federal opportunity to expand health coverage under the U.S. health reform law.

Despite having put their health and lives at risk while serving in the armed forces, 1.3 million U.S. veterans—including 47,000 here in Pennsylvania—lack health insurance.[1] The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides states with the opportunity to expand Medicaid in 2014 to adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty line (roughly $32,000 for a family of four). Almost half of the nation’s 1.3 million uninsured veterans would qualify for coverage if all states expand Medicaid eligibility.

Close to 23,000 Pennsylvania veterans without insurance and more than 10,000 of their uninsured family members could qualify for Medicaid coverage if the state expands.[2] In addition, expanding Medicaid would mean that nearly 12,000 Pennsylvania veterans who currently depend solely on VA coverage could use Medicaid to supplement their VA benefits.[3]

Pa. Veterans and their Families Would Benefit from Medicaid Expansion
Non-elderly veterans who could qualify under Medicaid 
Category Number Newly Qualified for Medicaid*
Uninsured Veterans 47,000 48.8%
Uninsured Family Members of Veterans 30,000 35.5%
Veterans w/ VA Coverage Alone 23,000 51.9%
* This is the national estimate of those who would qualify for Medicaid.
Source: Urban Institute, “Uninsured Veterans and Family Members,” May 2012.

Nationally, 41% of uninsured veterans report unmet medical needs, and nearly 34% report delaying care due to cost. One in three appear to have at least one chronic health condition.[4]

Accepting the federal dollars allocated to expand Medicaid health coverage in Pennsylvania is a win-win. It reduces the number of people who lack the security of knowing they can see a doctor when they get sick, including tens of thousands of veterans and their families. Recent studies also show it will increase the number of jobs throughout Pennsylvania and strengthen the state’s economy and finances.[5]


[1] Jennifer Haley and Genevieve M. Kenney, “Uninsured Veterans and Family Members: Who Are They and Where Do They Live?,” Urban Institute, May 2012, http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/412577-Uninsured-Veterans-and-Family-Members.pdf.

[2] Calculation assumes share of Pennsylvania veterans with incomes that would allow them to qualify for Medicaid under the expansion matches the national share.

[3] The VA encourages veterans to retain any health care coverage they may already have and notes that VA health care is not considered a health insurance plan. Veterans Health Care, Health Care Benefits Overview 2012,” http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/resources/publications/IB10-185-health_care_benefits_overview_2012_eng.pdf.   

[4] Haley and Kenney, “Uninsured Veterans and Family Members.”

[5] See “Fact Sheet: Pa. Should Take Federal Opportunity to Expand Medicaid Coverage,” Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, June 12, 2013, http://pennbpc.org/medicaid-expansion-fact-sheet