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Written by: Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP® and Martie Gillen, Ph.D., MBA, AFC®, CFLE 

The statistics are startling! Among U.S. active-duty service members and their families, almost 26% are food insecure. Food insecurity means that someone’s diet has reduced quality, variety, or desirability (low food security) or there are multiple disruptions of eating patterns and reduced food intake (very low food security). 

Medicaid is a jointly funded (state and federal government) needs-based program that- along with its companion Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)- provides health coverage to approximately 76 million income-eligible adults and children, including pregnant women and people with disabilities. States administer Medicaid according to federal regulations.

What does food insecurity have to do with Medicaid? Plenty! First, Medicaid benefits can help offset the cost of healthcare, thereby freeing up household income for food and other basic needs (e.g., housing and utilities). In addition, in some states, Medicaid programs are focusing on nutrition and wellness education.

Below is some additional information about Medicaid and food insecurity for Personal Financial Managers to know as they conduct briefings and provide financial counseling for service members: 

Medicaid and the Military– Many military veterans receive Medicaid benefits. Active-duty military families may also be covered. Eligibility is based on income and health condition. For eligible military families, Medicaid may provide wrap-around or dual coverage under TRICARE.

Medicaid Priorities– Since 1965, Medicaid has focused on three dimensions of healthcare: prevention, treatment, and management with recent emphasis on disease prevention/management, including food security. States can ask the federal government for Medicaid waivers to try innovative, experimental approaches.

Diet and Health– Medicaid has allowed healthcare providers to identify, diagnose, and address health conditions relating to diet and nutrition. As a result, various states (e.g., Arkansas, Massachusetts, and Oregon) are pursuing program changes through approved demonstration projects.

Target Audiences– Medicaid innovations typically focus on specific populations. For example, Arkansas’ nutritional support services are focused in part on military veterans between ages 19 and 30 who are experiencing difficulty transitioning to civilian life.

Double-Edged Sword- The Medicaid waiver process has pros and cons. On the plus side, state experiments with different processes can lead to identification and adoption of best practices nationwide. Conversely, state waivers are a source of frustration because what is allowed in one state is not allowed in another.

Complimentary Resources- Medicaid is only one of many government and non-profit agency programs that can address food insecurity. Other resources for food insecure military families are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly food stamps), SNAP-Ed, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and community food banks and food pantries.

For additional information about income tax planning and tax diversification, review this OneOp blog post.

Photo Credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

Food Security in Focus

2023 MFRA logo wheat icon in front of a blue starTake advantage of OneOp’s Food Security in Focus collection, offering live and on-demand programming related to food security. 

Among our nation’s active-duty service members and their families, an estimated 24 percent are food insecure. Food insecurity adversely impacts racial/ethnic minority populations, lower-income populations, and rural and remote populations. Additionally, a rise in economic insecurity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to increased food insecurity in vulnerable populations. Join OneOp as we focus on expanding food security for the military family and mobilizing family service professionals at federal, state, and local levels to work together on this issue.

Food Security in Focus