Skip to main content

Active duty military families are provided significant healthcare coverage and services under their TRICARE benefits. But sometimes they need to turn to other sources of assistance to get needed coverage and benefits.  This is especially the case for families that may have members with special health care needs. In addition, most families – be they in the military or not – face questions and sometimes challenges when helping older family members with healthcare needs. One resource that families may turn to is Medicaid – the public health insurance program which is operated in partnership between the states and the federal government.

With a new Congress and President in Washington, there has been some discussion about changing and reforming Medicaid.  While the scope of change and reform is still unclear, and the prospects for any immediate change is uncertain, this is a good time to review some Medicaid basics and what they might mean to military families.

While the Medicaid program is most often thought of as a program that helps those with low incomes, one of its major purposes is to assist those who might have special care needs that are not covered or provided through other forms of health benefits or insurance.  In many circumstances, Medicaid can help provide for home and community based health services that provide for caregiving in a non-institutional environment.  For example, a family with a child with severe disabilities might be able to use Medicaid to obtain services beyond those provided by TRICARE or TRICARE/ECHO.

Adults in Military Families, often find themselves in the middle of a “sandwich.”  While caring for their children, they might also be looking after their parents or grandparents.  In addition to helping serve those with special health care needs, Medicaid can also be an important resource for older individuals. We often think of Medicare – a program primarily for those over 65 — as the government health insurance program for those who are older. But Medicaid can also play a role for those who are disabled or have low incomes.  Medicare provides relatively little coverage for long-term and in-home care, while Medicaid is a major source of support.  Medicaid can also help fill a gap for medical and prescription expenses when Medicare is not enough.

Navigating Medicaid is not especially easy. Because Medicaid programs are operated at the state level, each state has its own eligibility criteria and application procedures.  For families moving from one state to another, this can prove to be a challenge.  Eligibility in one state does not transfer to another, which means that a family will need to make a new application when arriving at their new home.  Services in one state may not be available in another state.  Understanding these realities are important for military families, especially as they are faced with PCS, retirement, or separation decisions.

Those who are in a position to help military families with their caregiving needs, can be a valuable asset in informing families about the various services and resources available through various public programs and community services.  Medicaid is one such resource. The Military Caregiving team is looking forward to presenting an up-to-date session on Medicaid on June 21, 2017 through a webinar entitled ‘Medicaid: Taking Stock of an Essential Program in Uncertain Times.’  This webinar will take into account recent developments as they unfold over the next few months, while also offering some information on Medicaid basics. We hope that you can join us then.

We also remind you that an in-depth three-part series on Medicaid is available through the OneOp portal.  Just link to our Medicare & Medicaid Resources blog post.  To learn more about Medicare please see our recent blog ‘Are You Covered? – Medicare Overseas’ as well as our archived webinar Medicare 2017 & What it Means for You.


This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 2, 2017.