Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to examine veterans' reliance on health care services provided by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) within Minnesota and estimate the potential effect on uninsurance rates if all eligible veterans relied on VHA coverage. Secondary objectives were to compare veterans and nonveterans' by geographic location, demographic characteristics, health status, and health insurance coverage and to compare insured and uninsured veterans especially with regard to access to care.
Research design: Data are from the 2001 Minnesota Health Access Survey of a stratified random sample of more than 27,000 respondents, of whom 3,500 were self-identified veterans. Although all veterans were eligible to obtain health care services from the VHA in 2001, veterans not reporting VHA coverage and having no other source of insurance coverage were considered uninsured. Differences in weighted population characteristics are reported. Logistic regression analysis is used to identify factors associated with veterans' reliance on VHA coverage.
Results: Veterans represented 13.4% of the state's adult population and 9.3% of the state's uninsured nonelderly adult population in 2001. Uninsured veterans were more likely to be single, unemployed, living in rural areas, and reporting constrained access to services than insured veterans. Veterans with a non-VHA source of insurance were less reliant on VHA services.
Conclusions: The state's uninsurance rate would significantly decrease if VHA capacity constraints were alleviated and veterans relied on the VHA safety net. If veterans' insurance status matters in states with low uninsurance rates, VHA coverage has broader implications for states with higher veteran concentrations and higher uninsurance rates.