- Roy Cooper is pulling out all the stops to pass his top big-government priority: Medicaid expansion
- In a new low, the Cooper administration takes advantage of the state’s veteran population to advance this agenda
- Low-income veterans already qualify for federal VA health benefits; a large uninsured veteran population points to a failure of the administration to connect veterans with existing benefits
Proponents of Medicaid expansion in North Carolina – led by Gov. Roy Cooper – have clearly demonstrated a willingness to distort the narrative to garner support for their side. Advocates for expansion have twisted their words to make it seem as though children would benefit from expansion (they wouldn’t). Advocates have capitalized on the tragedy of the opioid crisis to gain political support for their pet policy project (although expansion states still struggle with this problem).
But this time, the Cooper administration has taken the misleading rhetoric a step too far.
Cooper has long claimed that thousands of veterans in North Carolina would be eligible for Medicaid under expansion. The governor originally claimed 23,000 veterans would be affected but his administration has since been using the estimate of 12,000. (These estimates appear to come from two studies by left-leaning research groups, and the vast difference between them should raise eyebrows, but that’s a question for another day.)
Now, the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) – under the control of the Cooper administration – is doubling down on the narrative that our state’s veterans would benefit from expansion. DMVA’s August newsletter featured the issue as its top story.
Most of the total population of people who would be newly-eligible for Medicaid under expansion already have insurance (63 percent) or qualify for subsidized plans of which they are not taking advantage (11 percent). But what about the 12,000 veterans? Turns out, Cooper’s talking point on this one is even more misleading because nearly all low-income veterans who would qualify for Medicaid under expansion already qualify for health benefits through the federal Veterans Administration (VA) health care program.
The exceptions to the VA health care eligibility include veterans who received Other than Honorable, Bad Conduct, or Dishonorable Discharges. Estimates suggest that these categories collectively account for less than 2.5 percent of veterans nationally. Recently, the VA expanded certain health benefits to those groups, as well.
VA health care sets income limits based on cost-of-living differences across counties. The lowest income limits in the state apply to 37 of the 100 counties in the state. Even the lowest county income thresholds for VA health care are significantly higher than the Medicaid expansion thresholds – over $15,000 more for veterans with no dependents, and nearly $12,000 more for a family of four.
In the three highest cost-of-living counties (Wake, Johnston, and Franklin), single veterans qualify for VA health care who make three times the income limit for Medicaid expansion. A veteran in a family of four can make double the income threshold for Medicaid expansion and still qualify for VA health care.
In short, virtually every North Carolina veteran that would be eligible for Medicaid expansion is already eligible for VA benefits.
So, why is the state department that is meant to advocate for the interest of veterans using their platform to advocate for a duplicative program when the necessary help for veterans already exists through the federal government? Instead of using veterans to advance the governor’s political agenda, the department should be asking itself how it can better help the estimated 12,000 veterans who would qualify for Medicaid under expansion get connected to the VA health care program to which they are already entitled. If there are, in fact, 12,000 to 23,000 veterans that would be newly insured under Medicaid expansion, the department should be ashamed of itself for failing to help them connect with available resources sooner.
Is it possible that the DMVA doesn’t know about these health care benefits? Hardly. The landing page for the VA health care program specifically directs veterans who need help applying for the benefits to “Find your state’s veterans agency.” When you follow the provided link for North Carolina, it directs you to the DMVA.
The Cooper administration is shamelessly using the good-will garnered by our brave veterans to advance it’s big-government agenda. This is inexcusable and only demonstrates that the policy cannot stand on its own merits.