October 31, 2013

Senators seek to fix ER reimbursement loophole for new vets

A loophole in veterans’ healthcare that is leaving some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans facing big medical bills for emergency room treatment is under study by a Senate committee and the Veterans Affairs Department.

Fixing the problem has raised larger issues about the long waiting times for initial medical examinations required before a veteran is fully eligible for VA health care benefits.

VA has a requirement, set in law, that prohibits reimbursement of emergency room care at non-VA facilities for anyone who has not had a medical appointment in the previous 24 months at a VA hospital or clinic.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is the chief sponsor of a bill to change that. Her proposal would specifically allow ER reimbursement for veterans who have not had VA medical appointment in the previous 24 months because of the waiting period for new patient examinations.

Republican Sens. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Democrat Mark Begich of Alaska are cosponsors of her bill, S 1588.

Hirono said the current policy is well intended, but “it is not fair to punish veterans for waiting times outside their control.”

“Just last week, I met a veteran from Waianae who had a medical emergency while waiting for months for his appointment at VA,” she said Wednesday when her bill was discussed before the veterans’ committee.

Read the entire piece here: http://www.militarytimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013310310012

By:  Rick Maze
Source: Military Times