The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
November 11, 2015

This Veterans Day, early evidence that the ACA is serving those who have served


On this Veterans Day, some good news for vets: a first look at new data shows that the share of nonelderly veterans who are uninsured has declined since the implementation of the major coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Veterans' uninsurance declineOur earlier research found that roughly one million nonelderly veterans lacked health insurance coverage prior to the implementation of the ACA’s coverage provisions. In addition, uninsured veterans reported much lower access to needed health care than veterans with coverage, and many reported physical and mental health problems.

But as we begin the third open enrollment period under the ACA, the coverage landscape for veterans has shifted, with new coverage options available through Medicaid and ACA marketplaces. There is also the potential for additional enrollment in coverage available through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While many studies have documented declines in the uninsured rate among all nonelderly adults under the ACA, to date no published analysis has examined whether veterans are also seeing coverage gains. But a first look at data from the National Health Interview Survey before and after implementation of the major coverage provisions of the ACA reveals that uninsurance among nonelderly veterans declined from nearly 12 percent in 2013 to 8.6 percent in 2014. 

This suggests that, like other nonelderly adults, veterans are being positively affected by the coverage provisions of the ACA. But even with this improvement, 1 in 11 veterans were still uninsured in 2014.  With continuing implementation of the ACA—especially in states that have expanded Medicaid coverage—there is the potential to further reduce uninsurance among veterans and, ultimately, to increase their access to needed care.

Dr. Bethesaida Tafari Habte, Primary Clinician for Well Women Clinic, discusses health care with U.S. Air Force veteran Wendy Haylor on Friday,Nov. 13, 2009, at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Photo by Ron Agnir/AP


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