In 2010, over 22 million men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces were still alive. That's a sizeable chunk of the population and those veterans have served in every conflict from World War II through the ongoing War on Terror. Veterans are a vital part of America and this weekend is a special time to think about their contributions and thank them for their service.
However, we could be doing more to help our veterans. According to a new report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there are an estimated 1.3 million uninsured veterans between ages 19 and 64 nationwide -- more than 10 percent of all veterans. These uninsured veterans make up about 5 percent of the total uninsured population. Veterans as a group are more likely to be insured than the rest of the population, but these numbers are still shocking. The report also finds that 41 percent of uninsured veterans report unmet medical needs, while 34 percent report having delayed care due to cost. That's right -- two out of every five veterans need medical attention and are not getting it.
But wait a second -- can't veterans all get care at their local Veterans Affairs (V.A.) Hospital? Not necessarily. The pool of money provided by Congress to the V.A. hospitals is a set amount and can provide care for a set number of veterans; priority groups have been established to make sure that certain veterans, such as those with a significant injury, Medal of Honor or Purple Heart, definitely receive health care. Thankfully, not everyone in the armed services is injured in combat, but that does mean that some veterans fall lower on the priority list. Other veterans have to pay co-pays to be seen at the VA Hospitals, which may be financially difficult. So who are these uninsured veterans? They are more likely to be younger, have served recently, overall have less education, and are more often unmarried and unemployed. In Illinois, 43,000 veterans don't have health insurance and 25,000 of their family members are similarly uninsured.
Americans need to take care of veterans and the Affordable Care Act will do just that. When the ACA is implemented, nearly nine in 10 uninsured veterans will have improved access to affordable coverage. At implementation in 2014, nearly half of the uninsured veterans will likely qualify for expanded Medicaid coverage. This provision will expand Medicaid coverage to adults with incomes under about $15,000 a year. Another 40 percent of uninsured veterans have incomes that would allow them to qualify for subsidized coverage through state health insurance exchanges, in which they will receive subsidies to help pay for private health insurance coverage.
The Affordable Care Act is around to serve these veterans, just like they served their country. Take a few minutes this holiday weekend to think about veterans and their service. Don't they deserve affordable health care for themselves and their families?
On Memorial Day at 3 p.m., local time around the nation, Americans will pause for the annual Moment of Remembrance to pause and reflect on the sacrifice of America's fallen warriors and the freedoms that unite Americans.
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