Recent Changes in Health Insurance Coverage for Urban and Rural Veterans: Evidence from the First Year of the Affordable Care Act

Michel Boudreaux, Deanna Barath, Lynn A. Blewett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Prior to the Affordable Care Act, as many as 1.3 million veterans lacked health insurance. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, veterans now have new pathways to coverage through Medicaid expansion in those states that chose to expand Medicaid and through private coverage options offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace. We examined the impact of the ACA on health insurance coverage for veterans in expansion and non-expansion states and for urban and rural veterans. Methods: We examined changes in veterans' health insurance coverage following the first year of the ACA, focusing on whether they lived in an urban or rural area and whether they live in a Medicaid expansion state. We used data on approximately 200,000 non-elderly communitydwelling veterans, obtained from the 2013-2014 American Community Survey and estimated differences in the adjusted probability of being uninsured between 2013 and 2014 for both urban and rural areas. Adjusted probabilities were computed by fitting logistic regressions controlling for age, gender, race, marital status, poverty status, education, and employment. Results: There were an estimated 10.1 million U.S. non-elderly veterans in 2013; 82% lived in predominantly urban areas (8.3 million), and the remaining 18% (1.8 million) lived in predominately rural areas. Most veterans lived in the South (43.6%), and rural veterans were more likely to be Southerners than their urban counterparts. On every marker of economic well-being, rural veterans fared worse than urban veterans. They had a statistically significant higher chance of having incomes below 138% of FPG (20.0% versus 17.0%), of being out of the labor force (29.1% versus 23.0%), and of having no more than a high school education (39.6% versus 28.8%). Rural veterans were also more likely to experience at least one functional limitation. Overall, veterans in Medicaid expansion states experienced a significantly larger increase in insurance compared to veterans living in non-expansion states. For rural veterans in Medicaid expansion states, the increase in insurance was 3.5 percentage points, compared with 1.2 percentage points in non-expansion states. Conclusion: Our analysis found a substantial 24% relative decline in the rate of uninsurance for U.S. Veterans, from 9.3 to 7.1% between 2013 and 2014. We found that coverage gains in rural areas were due to gains in Medicaid and individual market coverage. Residence in a Medicaid expansion state was particularly influential for rural veterans - the increase in the insured rate was three times larger in Medicaid expansion states versus non-expansion states. The ACA has had a positive and significant impact on the ability of U.S. Veterans to obtain health insurance coverage specifically for low-income veterans living in rural areas. The poverty rate among Veterans is rising and is particularly an issue for the more recent Gulf War veterans. Providing affordable and accessible health insurance options is part of our commitment to those who have served our country. Our analysis also presents yet another reason for the 17 non-expansion states to consider a Medicaid expansion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E76-E82
JournalMilitary medicine
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded in part under a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Association of Military Surgeons of the United States. All rights reserved.


  • Affordable Care Act
  • health care
  • health insurance
  • veterans


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