Strengthening Medicaid to Support Our Veterans

The Modern Medicaid Alliance joins so many others this Veterans Day to honor those who have served in the U.S. armed forces. We owe these men and women not just our gratitude, but also our support after their service ends, and we are proud of the role that Medicaid plays in supporting the well-being of veterans and their families.

While many veterans and their families receive health care coverage through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a large portion of America’s veterans depend on Medicaid coverage to access high-quality, affordable health care.

Nearly 2 million — or 1 in 10 — veterans rely on Medicaid, and the program provides a critical component of their comprehensive health care coverage.

Veterans Have Complex Health Needs

Among veterans covered by Medicaid, nearly 40% have Medicaid as their only source of health care coverage. For the remaining 60%, Medicaid supplements other coverage, which could be Medicare, private, military or veterans coverage, helping to better ensure their health and financial security.

This coverage is particularly important for veterans with complex health needs. In fact, 54% of veterans on Medicaid have a disability, 42% have two or more chronic conditions, and, overall, 35% of veteran Medicaid beneficiaries describe their health as fair or poor.

Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Among Veterans

The value of Medicaid to veterans is particularly clear when it comes to mental and behavioral health. 11% of veterans report having a severe mental health illness and 12% report having a substance use disorder (SUD). Further, more than 3 out of every 10 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report having a mental health or cognitive condition.

All state Medicaid programs cover certain behavioral health services, and many states also cover a variety of services that aim to address mental illness and substance use like peer support services – where individuals use their own lived experience recovering from SUD to support others in recovery. Additional state Medicaid  behavioral health benefits for enrollees experiencing mental illness or SUD may include psychiatrist services, inpatient psychiatric care, and inpatient SUD treatment.

Expanding and Enhancing Medicaid Protects Veterans

The past decade has provided ample evidence that expanding and protecting Medicaid directly improves veterans’ health outcomes.

From 2013 to 2015, the uninsured rate among non-elderly veterans fell from 9.6% to 5.9%, following implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and these coverage gains were largest in states that expanded Medicaid. Notably, nine of the ten states that saw the greatest gains in health coverage were states that expanded Medicaid.

The evidence is clear. One of the best ways to support veterans and their families is to ensure a strong, sustainable Medicaid program.