Income levels bar many from VA health services, researcher says,,,,
TUESDAY, Oct. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Almost 2 million veterans are without health insurance, along with 3.8 million members of their households, a new study finds.
Among the 1.8 million uninsured veterans, 12.7 percent are under 65. In addition, the number of uninsured veterans has increased by 290,000 between 2000 and 2004, according to the report in the Oct. 30 online edition of the American Journal of Public Health.
"The Bush Administration has been sending Americans overseas asking them to fight for their country, and yet, when people come home, they have no guarantee of health care," said study co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program. "The most basic human right of health care is being denied to our veterans, along with other Americans -- and that's a disgrace."
"Over 1 million veterans have no health insurance and no access to veterans' hospitals," Woolhandler added. "I think that's shocking to most people. It was certainly shocking to us."
Many of these veterans were members of working families that earned too much to qualify for programs such as Medicaid or Veterans Administration care, Woolhandler said. "Yet, they earned too little to be able to afford private coverage," she said.
Woolhandler noted that the Veterans Administration health-care system is not open to all veterans. Many uninsured veterans can't get any VA care because the Bush Administration stopped enrollment of most middle-income veterans in 2003, she said.
"Any veteran with a service-connected disability can get access to the VA," Woolhandler said. "That's a minority of veterans. For everybody else, VA care is means-tested -- veterans earning more than $30,000 a year will not be eligible for VA care."
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