Veterans younger than 65 have made significant gains in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study released Wednesday by researchers at the nonpartisan Urban Institute.
Nationwide, about 429,000 military veterans gained coverage in the 20 states with the largest veteran populations, including Florida, the report found, reducing the uninsured rate among non-elderly veterans by nearly 40 percent from 2013 to 2015.
States that expanded eligibility for Medicaid under the health law known as Obamacare covered more of their veterans, said Jennifer Haley, a researcher with the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.
But even among the states examined that did not expand Medicaid eligibility, such as Florida, veterans saw significant gains, according to the report.
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“The Affordable Care Act provisions seem to be benefiting veterans, and also their spouses and children,” Haley said.
Nationwide, there were about 980,000 uninsured veterans in 2013, according to the report. By mid-2015, the report found, the number of uninsured veterans had dropped to 552,000.
In Florida, the uninsured rate among veterans younger than 65 dropped from 84,000 or roughly 12.5 percent in 2013 to about 49,000 or 7.4 percent in mid-2015.
The ACA’s health insurance exchange, healthcare.gov, launched in 2014, along with the health law’s Medicaid expansion provisions.
Haley said researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the National Health Interview Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Haley said researchers could not tell why so many veterans were uninsured when they could have enrolled for healthcare coverage through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which provides care and federal benefits to veterans and their dependents.
“It could be that they live too far from a VA facility,” she said. “It could be they're not aware they qualify for VA coverage. For example, if they don’t have a service-connected disability, then they may think they’re not eligible.”
Any person who served in the active military and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable may qualify for VA health benefits and services.
The Miami VA Healthcare System, which serves veterans in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, served about 58,000 patients in 2014 and 2015, according a spokesman.