By Mack Bonner, M.D., MPH, United States Navy Medical Corp Veteran
The largest population of uninsured veterans are in the southern states that have not chosen to expand Medicaid; Texas has the most at 120,000, but in NC it is estimated that 30,000 veterans and 23,000 military veteran family members have no health insurance.
Many people are unaware that most veterans are not eligible for medical care through the VA health care system. Only those with more than 20 years of service or have a medical disability, are covered. Those who have less time in service, or no disability are not covered. Yet these veterans, too, provided a great service to our nation. We need to ensure that they are adequately; we owe them this consideration for their service and sacrifice.
Uninsured veterans are more likely to be younger, minority and low income; half of uninsured veterans have incomes below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. Uninsured veterans are more likely to rely upon emergency care and less likely to have a primary source of care. A national survey by the Kaiser Foundation found that 43% of veterans deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan considered their health to be worse after discharge then before military service.
Moreover, studies have shown that uninsured veterans are sicker and poorer and have more health problems than those who are insured. If we claim to be a veteran-friendly state, then we ought to be able to take care of all of our veterans, not just those that are fortunate enough to have VA healthcare.
North Carolina a has a clear moral obligation to move towards closing the coverage gap and thereby providing health care for thousands of its uninsured veterans.
Mack Bonner, M.D., MPH, United States Navy Medical Corp Veteran. Dr. Bonner currently resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia. During his career with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, he was a resident of Butner, NC.