By Capt. Kathryn M. Beasley , USN (Ret)

A new research report, America's Military Readiness and the Essential Role of Medicaid, examines the critical role the Medicaid program plays in the health of military connected families. MOAA is a key contributor to and sponsor of the report, with the Tricare for Kids Coalition, and was featured in an op-ed in The Hill newspaper on the topic.

The report further details how Medicaid, by supporting children of active duty and Guard and Reserve servicemembers and veterans, is crucial for our nation's military readiness both today and far into the future. It also explains how we can support their health and our nation's military readiness.

Most people might not realize the Medicaid program is the nation's largest single payer for health care services for over 37 million children. As the report highlights, even fewer likely realize Medicaid can be critical for families with active duty, reserve, National Guard, retired, and veteran members. Children in these families can be enrolled in Medicaid even when a service member is covered by TRICARE or a veteran receives care through the VA.

Medicaid enrollment for these families primarily comes through three avenues: First, an estimated 3.4 million children of veterans are enrolled in Medicaid based upon family income. In addition, another 200,000 military kids - approximately 10 percent of children of active service military families who are covered by TRICARE - also rely on Medicaid for health care coverage, many due to serious medical conditions that require a high degree of specialization. Finally, as many as 500,000 children of TRICARE-covered families qualify for Medicaid coverage on the basis of income, which can cover needed pediatric services when TRICARE does not.

Why would children covered by TRICARE require Medicaid? For active duty troops, certain guard members and reservists, retired service members, and their families, TRICARE covers most health care services. But because it is based on Medicare, which is designed to serve adults' health care needs, TRICARE does not always meet the specific health care needs of children. As a result of this gap, TRICARE-covered families may confront instances when their child's health care needs are not met by TRICARE.