The Private Option and Vets: An Argument Worth Stating


Many Military Families Could Use Additional Support From The Private Option Plan

As state lawmakers debate whether to fund the Arkansas Private Option plan that provides health insurance coverage to thousands of low income residents, I am reminded of how difficult it can be for some servicemen and women to get the care they need. The private option uses federal Medicaid money, under the Affordable Care Act, to purchase private insurance for nearly 250,000 Arkansans who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Those facts are sometimes too technical for many people to understand, but what we do know is about 102,000 residents who didn’t have insurance are now eligible for it, but they could lose this coverage if the plan isn’t fully funded during this year’s fiscal session of the Legislature. Why should this be a concern for the Veterans’ community? Well, so many people assume that Veterans are already taken care of through VA services. However, many veterans who receive a less- than-honorable discharge or have varied Veteran statuses have trouble getting any VA health benefits. TRICARE, the Department of Defense health care program, provides coverage for medical services, medications, and dental care for active duty personnel, military families, retirees, and their survivors.

Yet we have to realize, like any health care plan, TRICARE has various requirements and sometimes people either lose coverage or experience gaps in services based on eligibility standards.

nohealthcare We must also remember that a significant number of Veterans fall into that low income category as defined by the private option, specifically our National Guard and Reservist because when they end their National Guard and Reserve service they often have limited to no access to military-sponsored benefits. Let us also not forget about the family members of Veterans and National Guard and Reservists who upon the service member’s return or exit from the military are left to fend for themselves like everyone else. A sad statement but true statement! Our state and this country has shown in recent years that it truly supports our women and men who fight wars abroad and win the peace here at home. During this Legislative Session, it is important for lawmakers to remember that supporting military families is about more than just yellow-ribbon car magnets and red, white, and blue wristbands, or lastly a proclamation of support. Award ceremonies and banquets to honor our men and women in uniform are helpful, but those events don’t have the same impact as concerted action that meets an important need. Preserving the private option is a tangible way of improving the lives of some service members and their families. Partisan politics should not win over practical problem solving.

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