Health-care reform offers new choices for veterans

The Affordable Care Act brings new choices in health care for veterans and their families.

The Affordable Care Act does not affect the health care veterans may already receive from the Veterans Health Administration. If you are eligible for VA health care, you will remain eligible under health-care reform.

It’s important to know that nothing in the legislation will affect your access to the care you currently receive. Nor does the act change the TRICARE or TRICARE for Life benefits your family may receive.

If you are a veteran enrolled in the VA health program, you do not need to obtain additional coverage. You need to know that enrollment in the VA health-care system is considered creditable coverage for Medicare parts C and D. You may purchase additional coverage if you want, but there is nothing in the law requiring you to do so.

However, VA health care is not creditable coverage for Medicare parts A and B. The VA does not recommend veterans cancel or decline coverage in Medicare or any other health-care or insurance programs solely because they are enrolled in VA health care. It is important to remember that VA health care is not considered a health-care insurance plan. It is a health-care benefit available to eligible veterans through a VA health-care facility.

The VA encourages veterans to retain any health-care coverage they may already have, especially those in lower-priority groups. There is no guarantee that in subsequent years, Congress will appropriate sufficient medical care funds for the VA to provide care for all enrollment priority groups. This could leave veterans, especially those in one of the lower-priority groups, with no access to VA health-care coverage.

For this reason, having a secondary source of coverage may be in a veteran’s best interests. Before canceling any health insurance coverage, veterans should carefully consider the risks.

At some time in your life, you may need emergency care. The VA’s ability to pay for the medical care of veterans provided by the community is regulated by federal law. The VA may be able to arrange and pay for the health care of eligible veterans outside of VA medical facilities – but only in certain, limited circumstances. This is another reason that having a secondary source of health-care coverage is in a veteran’s best interests.

Richard Schleeter is the veterans service officer for the La Plata County Veterans Service Office. He can be reached at 759-0117 or schleeterrs@co.laplata.co.us.