Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report

by Lesley Politi on April 2, 2009

Administration News | White House Abandons Plan To Make Veterans Use Private Health Insurance for Coverage of Service-Related Injuries
[Mar 19, 2009]      President Obama on Wednesday abandoned a proposal that would have required military veterans to use private insurance to cover treatment of combat-related injuries, according to the White House, McClatchy/Detroit Free Press reports (Goldstein, McClatchy/Detroit Free Press, 3/19). Under the plan, which was included in Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget proposal, the Department of Veterans Affairs would have billed health insurers for treatment of injuries and conditions sustained as a result of veterans’ military service. Currently, VA covers those costs and bills health insurers only for treating conditions unrelated to veterans’ military service (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 3/18). The Obama administration had said the change would save about $530 million annually (Rucker, Washington Post, 3/19).

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the administration had considered the plan as a way “to maximize the resources available to veterans,” but Obama “listened to concerns raised by the (veterans’ groups) that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans’ and their families’ ability to access health care” (Johnson, CQ Today, 3/18). Gibbs said, “The president has instructed that its consideration be dropped” (Pear, New York Times, 3/19).

On Wednesday, 68 Democratic and Republican House members sent a letter to Obama urging him to drop the plan. In addition, representatives of 11 veterans groups met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday to discuss the proposal. American Veterans National Executive Director Jim King said the meeting lasted 15 minutes and health insurance was the only topic discussed. King said the veterans representatives told him they would not back down from their stance against the changes (Tiron, The Hill, 3/18).

David Gorman, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, said, “Our message to the president was simple and direct: that our government must not abandon its moral responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms” (DiMascio, Politico, 3/18). Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the decision not to pursue the changes “is welcome news. Now we can focus on issues that are much more pressing” (Barnes, Los Angeles Times, 3/19). Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) issued a statement saying that Obama “did the right thing in dropping this proposal” (Washington Post, 3/19).

Source: kaisernetwork.org

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