American Veterans Need to Know Health Insurance Options

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Written by Guest | Last Updated November 13th, 2019
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Guest Post by Shaun Greene

Happy Veterans Day and 101st Anniversary of Armistice Day. As we take the day to remember our veterans (especially those who gave all), let’s also do what we can for those who are transitioning back into civilian life. Many companies have already done so with veteran-hiring initiatives. Many citizens have as well with the frequent expressions of gratitude for their service. From personal and professional experience (I’m a veteran and a licensed insurance agent), one area in particular that can be daunting to veterans is health insurance.

For retiring veterans there is Tricare coverage, and veterans with certain health conditions qualify for coverage and services through the Veterans Administration (VA). However, for those who transition to civilian life before retirement and don’t qualify for VA services, understanding health coverage can be as foreign as many of the deployments these veterans made while on active duty.

When I made the transition to civilian life years ago at Fort Benning, Georgia there was no guidance provided on health insurance. I had to open up the Yellow Pages (for the younger readers, that’s a book with yellow-colored pages listing various businesses and their phone numbers) and find an insurance broker who enrolled my family into a short-term health insurance policy to bridge us until that fall, when I picked up health insurance through my business school.

Today it’s not much better.

Talking to recently transitioned veterans there is still little guidance on health insurance. After some searching on Fort Benning’s “Soldier For Life — Transition Assistance Program” website, I found mentions of Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance plans, but not all veterans need or want ACA insurance.

Don’t get me wrong, ACA plans clinically are the best individual coverage — no pre-existing exclusions and services for numerous conditions, including mental health and pregnancy. However, they can be quite costly. Like many Americans, many veterans leaving the military will not be able to afford an ACA plan. Take a couple of cases for instance:

A 22-year-old male airman who just finished an enlistment is going home to St. Louis, Missouri to work construction and doesn’t have an employer option for health insurance. The least expensive ACA plan for 2019 on Healthcare.gov with a $7,000 deductible will cost him $253.99 per month. If he will make $24,000 or less in 2019, he will qualify for a generous subsidy and pay $53.38 or less per month. If he makes more than $40,000 in 2019, he’ll pay the full price. If he cannot afford full price, he should consider a short-term health insurance plan. If he’s healthy, he could buy a plan with a $5,000 deductible for $55.35 per month. This former airman must figure out what his needs are for the coming year and take that into consideration when making his decision.

In another case, a widowed 30-year-old female captain and her two daughters move back home to Dallas, Texas after leaving active duty. The least expensive ACA plan in Dallas with a $12,800 deductible for the family will cost her $615.74 per month if she doesn’t qualify for a subsidy. If she is looking for a job and doesn’t know or can’t guess at her 2019 income, this can be scary because if she guesses wrong, she’ll have to pay back the subsidy. Many people in this case buy a short- term health insurance plan as they expect to have coverage from an employer in the near future. She could obtain a plan for $316.44 per month for the family with a $7,500 deductible.

There is a lot to learn when transitioning to civilian life. Simple things like what to wear now that there is no uniform of the day was a big enough challenge for me. Fortunately, I connected with a good insurance broker to help me with the health insurance issue, but I’m very concerned that many of our veterans are not as fortunate as I was. Our veterans deserve better. Recent events have increased overall health insurance options, but our veterans need to understand this. Our armed services need to do a better job helping them understand what their options are with health insurance when they leave the service. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but it’s certainly something these men and women have earned.

Shaun Greene is the General Manger/Senior Vice President of AgileHealthInsurance.com. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army from 1991-1996.

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