Extending Medicaid would help Oklahoma veterans

veterans receiving healthcareIn June 2012, the United States Supreme Court found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) constitutional. However, the ruling allowed the states to decide whether they would accept federal funds to expand Medicaid benefits. Gov. Mary Fallin announced on November 19, 2012 that Oklahoma would not be expanding Medicaid.

If this decision is not reversed, it will have an adverse impact on many working Oklahomans including some Oklahoma veterans. Nationally 12.5 million non-elderly veterans are uninsured. Nearly half of uninsured veterans have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line, which would make them eligible for Medicaid as defined by the ACA. By failing to return Oklahoma federal tax dollars to the state for Medicaid expansion, Gov. Fallin and the legislature are ignoring the healthcare needs of some Oklahoma heroes. 

In a new OK Policy fact sheet, we provide information demonstrating how accepting federal funds to extend the Medicaid program will help some Oklahoma veterans:

  • Veterans make up a significant percentage of Oklahoma’s population. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, Oklahoma is home to 342,816 veterans, or 9 percent of the state’s total population. By comparison, veterans made up 7.3 percent of the United States population in 2011.


  • Many Oklahoma veterans and their family members go without health insurance. Oklahoma has the fifth-highest rate of uninsured veterans in the country, at 13.8 percent. That is 3.3 percentage points higher than the rest of the United States. An estimated 26,000 veterans are uninsured. Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured family members of veterans at 11.9 percent, or around 23,000 people. In total, almost 50,000 Oklahoma veterans and their family members are uninsured, a rate of 12.8 percent. Only Montana does a worse job of insuring their veterans and families.
  • A substantial portion of uninsured veterans report unmet medical needs. Nationally, 41.2 percent of uninsured veterans reported unmet medical needs; one-third have at least one chronic health condition; more than one in six (15.3 percent) report being “in fair or poor health.” Access to care is an even bigger problem among the uninsured family members of veterans: more than half (54.8 percent) reported unmet medical needs.
  • The VA Helps Many Veterans, But Not All. Most people assume that all veterans can receive health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which operates the nation’s largest health system. In actuality, only about 37 percent of the country’s more than 22 million veterans receive health coverage through the VA. Not all veterans can receive these benefits. For instance, many National Guard members and veterans of the reserves are ineligible. Eligibility is determined by active duty status, condition of discharge, length of service, income level and other factors. Veterans’ spouses and dependents are only able to access VA health care under particular circumstances.
  • Veterans and their families would benefit immensely from extending Medicaid. Accepting federal dollars to extend Medicaid would provide coverage to 48.8 percent of these uninsured veterans, because they have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. Currently only one in ten of these uninsured veterans qualify for Medicaid nationwide. Even fewer are likely to qualify in Oklahoma because Medicaid eligibility for adults is stricter than in many other states. Among family members of veterans, 35.5 percent make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line and would therefore become eligible for coverage.

By rejecting federal dollars to extend Medicaid, Oklahoma is turning its back on our veterans and their families. Many of these men and women, who have sacrificed so much to protect the safety of their fellow citizens, are being denied the coverage that they urgently need. 

Click here to download the the 2-page summary. For a full array of resources and materials on Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act click here.




One thought on “Extending Medicaid would help Oklahoma veterans

  1. Governor Fallin needs to re-evaluate her decision not to enact Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma. Oklahoma veterans deserve better than this!

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