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Affordable Care Act cut number of uninsured veterans by 40%, Urban Institute study finds

The greatest coverage gains were among veterans with lowest incomes who received Medicaid benefits in expansion states, study says.

Susan Morse, Managing Editor

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The uninsurance rate among veterans under age 65 declined by nearly 40 percent during the first two years of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new study by the Urban Institute with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The uninsured rate fell from 9.6 percent in 2013 prior to the ACA, to 5.9 percent in 2015, according to the report. Approximately 429,000 veterans gained coverage, and the gains were broad-based across demographic groups.

[Also: VA finally gets transparent on veteran wait times, clinical care quality]

Among veterans ages 45 to 54 and those who served in the era between the Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars, the uninsured rate dropped by almost 50 percent.

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Before the ACA's implementation, nearly one million veterans -- almost one in 10-- were uninsured, the study said. By 2015, the number of uninsured veterans fell to 552,000.

While many veterans have access to healthcare through the Department of Veterans Affairs, not all use or qualify for these services, the report said.

[Also: VA union president: Mismanagement, shortages at DC hospital 'unconscionable']

The study found that Medicaid expansion also helped to lower the uninsurance rate for veterans. The uninsured rates in 2015 averaged 4.8 percent in expansion states, compared to 7.1 percent in states that didn't expand the program.

For veterans with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and eligible for Medicaid in expansion states, the uninsured rate dropped by 43 percent.

Veterans' families also benefited from the ACA, the study said. Using data from the 2013–2015 American Community Survey, researchers found uninsurance rates for veterans' spouses dropped from 9.2 percent in 2013 to 5.5 percent in 2015 and from 4.5 to 2.9 percent for their children.

[Also: Gross deficiencies, supply shortages put VA hospital patients at 'unnecessary risk,' OIG says]

Among black and Hispanic veterans, uninsured rates fell from 10.6 to 6.5 percent and from 11.0 to 7.1 percent, respectively, by 2015.

"The coverage provisions of the ACA have led to a 40 percent decline in uninsurance for non-elderly veterans," said Katherine Hempstead, senior adviser at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Expansion of Medicaid in remaining states would increase those gains."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse