Dust Off: 'Obamacare’s' impact on veterans health care

Dr. Dana Matthews, a member of the Treasure Coast community. This story is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with this site.
Originally published 03:01 p.m., October 28, 2013
Updated 03:01 p.m., October 28, 2013
PORT ST. LUCIE — President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law on March 23, 2010. The intent of its passage is to expand access to health-care coverage, control health-care costs, and improve America’s health-care delivery system. Under provisions of the ACA’s "individual mandate," all Americans are required to purchase medical insurance by Jan. 1. Now we discover that the “Obamacare" website is defunct, and for most veterans that’s the least of our concerns with the act. Indeed, most veterans define the ACA as the “American Confusion Act.”
So, just how does the ACA impact veterans is the question. The answer is the Affordable Care Act will not directly impact VA health care system nor will it affect TRICARE or TRICARE for Life beneficiaries (military active duty personnel, retirees and their dependents). Veterans eligible for VA health care will remain eligible under health reform; nothing in the proposed legislation will affect veterans’ access to the care that they currently are receiving. The legislation makes clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs will retain full authority over the VA health care system.
However, the devil is always in the details. A report authored by Jennifer M. Haley and Genevieve M. Kenney for the Urban Institute says that some 1.3 million veterans under the age of 65 are uninsured. It is this population that needs to be better informed about their health care options: which ones to chose and how to exercise them. “It is important that the VA is prepared and communicates with veterans," says Congressman Mike Michaud of Maine, the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Additionally, the VA specifically needs to be prepared for a projected increase in enrollment come 2014. The VA says that it is well prepared, and that out of the 1.3 million uninsured veterans the net increase should only yield about 66,000 healthier and younger veterans. This according to the VA statistical forecasters and analysts, will not negatively impact the Veteran Healthcare Administration. We shall see. Backlogs, administrative hoops and access have always been key issues to VA Healthcare.
By now most of us are aware that under the ACA, most individuals will be required to have minimum essential health-care coverage for themselves and their dependents. If people do not have the minimum coverage, they will have to make a payment when filing taxes for each month they lack coverage. This payment will either be a flat fee or a percentage of taxable household income.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care meets the law’s standard for coverage. Therefore, veterans already enrolled in VA health care would not be eligible for assistance in lowering the cost of their health insurance premiums, if they were to purchase additional health-care coverage outside of VA.
In short, for the 1.3 million uninsured veterans out there signing up for VA healthcare renders them compliant with the ACA. If you are enrolled in the VA you have credible coverage, The VA contends that enrollment is easy. We shall see.
Veterans may still purchase private health insurance, on or off the marketplace, to complement their VA coverage. Everything still clear as mud?
For more information, contact the VA at 877-222-8387 or find them online at http://www.1010ez.med.gov.
Dr. Dana Matthews is a retired Lieutenant Colonel, US Army Ranger and a veterans health care consultant
This story is contributed by a member of the community and is neither endorsed nor affiliated with TCPalm.
This story is contributed by a member of the Treasure Coast community and is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with this site.





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