REPORT: America’s Military Readiness and the Essential Role of Medicaid

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A coalition of military family and health advocacy groups released a new report — America’s Military Readiness and the Essential Role of Medicaid — highlighting the crucial role Medicaid plays for millions of military children. The report details how 200,000 children in active service families rely on Medicaid to get the health care services they need, and 3.4 million children of veterans turn to the same program for health coverage. Medicaid plays a critical role for military families, helping them to stay focused on ensuring our nation’s military readiness.

“Medicaid provides health care coverage for tens of millions of children across the country — including children of active service members and veterans — and represents our investment in the nation’s future,” said Mark Wietecha, president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital Association, a founding member of the Tricare for Kids (TFK) Coalition. “As we continue to discuss how best to improve our U.S. health care system, it’s important to understand how essential Medicaid is to children’s healthy development and capacity to achieve their full potential as adults.”

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“While all children have distinct needs as compared to adults, children in military families face unique experiences due to the nature of their parents’ service to our nation,” said Lieutenant General Dana T. Atkins, president and CEO, Military Officers Association of America, a member of the TFK Coalition. “Protecting the programs that support our children’s health — especially Medicaid — helps ensure military readiness today and into the future.”

Lily Putney is just one of the 200,000 military children who have benefited from Medicaid coverage. Lily’s father, Anthony Putney, served in the U.S. Navy for 23 years. He was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan when Lily, a developmentally healthy child, got an ear infection at 15 months old that changed their lives forever. The ear infection failed to respond to standard antibiotics and treatment, soon spiraling out of control. Lily was hospitalized and eventually diagnosed with “presumed viral encephalitis” which led to cerebral palsy requiring consistent hospital treatment and therapeutic care.

“Once the complexity of Lily’s medical condition became clear, we were able to get Lily enrolled in Medicaid to support the services she needed that were not covered by TRICARE,” explained Putney. “These services included nursing care at her school and in the home as well as co-pay support for physical, occupational and speech therapies. With three other children in our household, having Medicaid in place to help support Lily’s health care was very important to our family’s well-being.”

In addition to making it possible for millions of military children to receive the health care services they need, Medicaid has also been shown to make a positive impact in other areas of a child’s life, according to the report. Compared to uninsured children, those covered by Medicaid are more likely to have better educational and health outcomes as adults. These children have higher school attendance and academic achievement, leading to greater resiliency and success in careers including civilian, military and post-military — with higher lifetime wages and contributions to the tax base.