Editorial: Our other veterans
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Nov 11, 2013 | 1900 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Photo: The Associated Press/file
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Photo: The Associated Press/file
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In the spirit of Monday’s Veterans Day holiday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley released a YouTube video tribute that honored the state’s military. It was poignant and heartfelt.

It didn’t mention, however, that the governor’s relentless fight against the Affordable Care Act and his refusal to expand Medicaid is hurting some Alabamians who wore the nation’s uniform.

In reports released in 2012 and earlier this year, researchers at the Urban Institute have discovered that 1 in 10 U.S. military veterans do not have health insurance. As the Washington Post reported Monday, veterans do not automatically qualify for Veterans Health Administration benefits; for example, they must serve 24 continuous months. Overall, veterans also have a lower uninsured rate (10 percent) than other Americans (18 percent).

Nevertheless, the Urban Institute researchers say 1.3 million veterans are not insured — plus an additional 900,000 adults and children in veterans’ families — regardless of the reasons why.

According to The Post, “Uninsured veterans report a lower level of education — 47.3 percent have no high school diploma, compared to 30.7 percent of insured veterans — and higher levels of unemployment (23.4 percent vs. 5.7 percent). Their lower likelihood of being employed is likely a partial explanation of why they lack health insurance coverage.”

Here is yet another instance where Bentley and his fellow anti-Obamacare, anti-Medicaid expansion governors are letting rigid ideology stand in the way of progress and compassion.

Forty percent of America’s uninsured veterans make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line and would qualify for Medicaid, according to The Post — if they lived in states that had expanded Medicaid. Alabama, with Bentley at the helm, has not.

More than 250,000 veterans who need health insurance are estimated to live in states that are expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. But 144,000 other U.S. veterans who live below the federal poverty line also live in states like Alabama that are refusing to take advantage of an expansion program that Washington would largely fund.

In his video tribute to Alabama’s veterans, Bentley did not mention the estimated 27,000 uninsured veterans who live in Alabama and would benefit from Medicaid expansion. The governor also did not mention the estimated 20,000 adults and children in veterans’ families would would also see their lives improved if the program was expanded.

That’s 47,000 veterans and their family members in Alabama whose opportunity for affordable health care is hampered by Bentley’s indefensible stance against President Obama’s signature legislation.
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