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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Veterans Rely on Medicaid—So Let’s Make Sure It's There When They Need It

Andrea Callow

Associate Director of Medicaid Initiatives

On Veterans Day, we honor the servicemen and servicewomen who have sacrificed for our country. A critical way lawmakers can do right by veterans is to ensure they have comprehensive health coverage. 

There is a common misconception that all vets are covered under the Veterans Administration (VA) health plan, but only 40 percent of all veterans were enrolled in the VA in 2014. Millions of veterans—1 in 10—use Medicaid to either supplement VA coverage, or as their only source of health insurance. They rely on Medicaid for everything ranging from routine checkups to the treatment of chronic, disabling conditions sustained in battle, such as traumatic brain injury. 

In the recent fight over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Republicans proposed massive cuts to the Medicaid program, totaling nearly a trillion dollars. While they were unsuccessful in repealing the ACA and gutting the Medicaid program for vets and others who rely on it, the threat is hardly over.

Putting Medicaid for Veterans at Risk for the Sake of Billionaires

It may seem that Republicans have turned their attention away from ACA repeal and toward tax reform, but don’t be fooled. Medicaid cuts remain high on their agenda. As our recent blog explains,  the congressional budget resolution, passed at the end of October with only Republican support, sets the stage for huge cuts to Medicaid. 

In fact, the budget resolution includes a $1.3 trillion cut for Medicaid and the ACA over the next 10 years. It also authorizes Congress to increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion to pay for tax cuts that will largely benefit the wealthiest. These tax cuts for the rich will lead to a massive increase in deficit spending—making large Medicaid cuts all but inevitable.

For Veterans Who Rely on Medicaid, the Battle Isn’t Over

While Republicans control Congress and the White House, Medicaid will remain firmly in the crosshairs. This Veterans Day, as we celebrate the contributions of our men and women in uniform, let’s not forget that honoring vets means more than hanging flags and making speeches. It’s also about keeping the Medicaid program strong to guarantee that the 1.75 million veterans (and over 600,000 of their spouses) continue to have affordable, quality health coverage.