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Your Opinion: Bearing the cost of independence

Your Opinion: Bearing the cost of independence

July 2nd, 2014 by Herb B. Kuhn, president and CEO, Missouri Hospital Association in News

Dear Editor:

July 4 celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The high language of the Declaration, "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," is followed by more practical concerns.

The founding fathers knew that the explosive ideas would require the creation of a nation-state. As such, they asserted that the new nation would have - among other powers - the "full Power to levy War, conclude Peace."

Throughout history, brave men and women have stood in harm's way to secure these values. And, we have borne the cost of caring for those who have sacrificed.

Recent news of the Veteran's Administration's failure to provide medical services to some of our nation's veterans is unconscionable. For generations, the VA has proven an excellent system. That system broke down.

However, many Americans don't know that VA does not provide care to all veterans. Some veterans who leave the service and return to civilian life fall through the cracks. Many of these veterans lack health insurance. Non-VA veterans could use the private health care system if they had health insurance - without long waits and close to home.

Nationally, 48.8 percent of veterans have incomes below the poverty level. One in 10 of the nation's non-elderly veterans has no health insurance and do not use VA services - that's 1.3 million veterans. Nearly 950,000 of their family members also lack coverage. In Missouri 30,000 non-elderly veterans and 22,000 of their family members are uninsured.

At this income level, veterans would be eligible for coverage under Medicaid as states expand their programs. In fact, if all states would expand Medicaid, nearly half of the nation's uninsured veterans would have access to health coverage.

Veterans' health care needs are very real. Research suggests that more than 40 percent of uninsured veterans report unmet or delayed health care needs and nearly 55 percent of veterans' families report similar needs. Both veterans and their families report they have delayed seeking care because of the costs they would incur as uninsured individuals.

It's one thing to wait in a long line. It's another altogether when you can't get access to the line.

Medicaid could provide expanded access to care for our veterans. With their duty done, Missouri's veterans deserve our support.