Two proposed bills could lower healthcare costs for veterans
April 13, 2012

By: Kelsey Brimmer

Two bills that would lower healthcare costs for veterans, make it easier for veterans to access the Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare system and prevent older veterans from unexpected out-of-pocket costs was recently introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR).

The first bill, the VA Enrollment Act, would expand VA eligibility to uninsured veterans and ensure that they aren’t forced to foot the bill for non-service connected healthcare. The second bill, the Veterans Co-Pay Fairness Act, would cover veterans’ out-of-pocket Medicare co-pays for emergency visits to non-VA hospitals, so long as they enroll within 30 days after they are released from the hospital.

The current law, the Veterans' Millennium Health Care and Benefits Act of 2001, prevents the VA from paying for emergency, non-service connected care of certain veterans at non-VA hospitals. Those not covered include veterans who haven’t enrolled with the VA and veterans who haven’t been seen by a VA doctor in the past two years. As a result, veterans end up with massive medical bills that often get passed along to local hospitals.

”If a veteran has an health emergency and calls 911, that veteran shouldn’t have to worry if they are going to be stuck with that bill for their care,” said DeFazio in a written statement. “I have heard from a number of constituents affected by bureaucratic loopholes that unfairly burden veterans and local hospitals. This legislation will close these loopholes to ensure that the VA fulfills its commitment to pay for the care of those who have served our country.”

The VA fully covers the cost of emergency visits by uninsured veterans to non-VA hospitals. However, older uninsured veterans covered by Medicare are forced to pay out-of-pocket for all co-pays for an identical visit to that non-VA hospital. DeFazio’s Veterans Co-Pay Fairness Act would cover veterans’ out-of-pocket Medicare co-pays for such visits.

Follow HFN Associate Editor on Twitter @kbrimmerhfn.