June 12, 2014

SENS. HIRONO & MORAN PUSH TO EXPAND VETERAN EMERGENCY CARE

On The Heels Of The Bipartisan VA Bill Passage, Hirono-Moran Introduce Legislation That Cuts Red Tape For Veterans Needing Emergency Health Procedures

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced the Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act of 2014. This legislation expands access to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) emergency safety net to all VA-enrolled veterans who rely solely on the VA for their medical care. The Hirono-Moran bill helps veterans by cutting red tape and eliminating the 24-month rule that can prevent veterans from being reimbursed for their emergency medical expenses. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed last year a similar measure by Hirono and Moran, although that measure was included in an omnibus bill that was eventually blocked from passage.

“The recent scandal at the VA has shown that we must do all we can to help our veterans, even after the spotlight on this issue has faded,” said Senator Hirono. “Building on the successful passage of the Sanders-McCain bill, Senator Moran and I are joining together again to push a permanent fix to the VA system that helps make sure our veterans can access the care that they need. This bill eliminates red tape that prevents veterans from being reimbursed for emergency care - veterans needing care shouldn’t be penalized because they live in rural communities or face outrageous wait times for appointments at VA medical facilities.”

“Veterans should not be forced to bear the burden of emergency health care costs because of the dysfunctional, bureaucratic VA system,” Sen. Moran said. “Those who have served our nation with duty and honor deserve quality health care when they need it. As a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Member, I am committed to improving access to care for veterans in Kansas and across the country.”

“The VFW thanks Senators Hirono and Moran for introducing the Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act of 2014. This important legislation would ensure that veterans who seek emergency care will no longer be responsible for financially devastating medical bills, simply because they have not received VA care in the previous 24 months. It would also close a loophole that allows veterans’ insurance companies to withhold reimbursements from VA,” said Raymond C. Kelley, Director of National Legislative Service at Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The current VA system creates a catch-22 for more than one million veterans who rely solely on the VA for their medical care. A veteran who receives emergency care at a non-VA facility can be reimbursed for those costs only if that veteran has also received care at a VA facility in the preceding 24 months. This creates an extreme financial hardship for veterans who experience a medical emergency. The Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act waives this 24-month rule. The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed a similar measure last year by Hirono and Moran, although that reform would have only waived the 24-month rule for newly enrolled veterans waiting for their first appointment, not fully repealing it.

The Veterans Emergency Health Safety Net Expansion Act is fully paid for and includes a provision that prevents insurance companies from denying or limiting reimbursements to the VA for medical care provided to insured veterans on the basis that the VA is not an in-network provider. According to the VA, this provision is projected to raise over $98 million in 2015 and $1.1 billion over 10 years.