Veterans' health care & Affordable Care Act
By Susan L. Junker BCC Contributor
What is the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? Also known as the Health Care Law and ObamaCare, it is intended to expand health care coverage to all Americans, lower costs and improve quality and coordination. Under this law, all Americans must either have health care coverage that meets a "minimum" standard by Jan. 1, qualify for an exemption or pay a penalty tax if they remain uninsured.
Fortunately, veterans enrolled in a Veterans Administration (VA) health care program already have coverage that meets the minimum standard of this new law. The bottom-line is veterans who are enrolled in VA health care don't need to take additional action to meet the health care law (ACA) coverage standards. The ACA does not change VA health benefits or veterans' out-of-pocket expenses. Veterans who are not enrolled in VA health care can apply at any time.
Aside from the ACA motivation, other reasons to enroll in VA healthcare include:
• This is a benefit for honorable service;
• No wait for a "sign up window" - apply at anytime with immediate coverage upon approval;
• No enrollment fee or monthly premiums or deductibles;
• Most veterans have no out-of-pocket expenses. Some have small co-payments for health care or prescription drugs;
• With over 1,400 locations, VA coverage goes with you;
• VA health care is rated among the best in the United States.
To enroll in VA Health Care:
• Visit on-line at the VA internet site, www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll
• Call 1-877-222-8387 and enroll by phone
• Visit the nearest VA health care facility
Additional assistance is available by contacting the Bandera American Legion Post 157 at 205 12th Street, in Bandera, or calling the post at 830-460-8162. The facility is open from 9 am until 3 pm, Monday through Friday. An experienced service officer and other post leadership will provide help. Other veterans service organizations should have similar capabilities.
Instructions for enrollment can be found at: http://www.va.gov/healthbenefits/apply/application_process.asp
You'll need to provide military service, insurance, financial, dependent and personal information to complete the enrollment form (VA Form 10-10EZ at http://www.va.gov/vaforms/medical/pdf/vha-10-10EZ-fill.pdf).
Once completed and submitted, it should take no more than two weeks to receive an enrollment decision. If needed, the American Legion can also assist in the appeal process of a denial of VA health coverage.
Once enrolled in VA health care, you can continue to use VA for all your health care needs or supplement your VA care and-or spouse-dependent coverage with private health insurance, such as the Affordable Care Act,or other federal health care programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE.
For those who do not have health insurance or do not qualify for the VA or coverage via another federal health care program, a key part of the ACA is the use of the "Health Insurance Marketplace." This is a listing of a variety of coverage plans for those required to obtain insurance or veterans who want to supplement their existing VA health care. Marketplace plan enrollment can be submitted beginning Oct. 1. Additional information is available from the Texas Department of Insurance at http://www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/cpmhnealthcare.htm.
If you are a veteran or know of someone who is, who is without the minimum required health insurance, now may be the best time to enroll in VA Health Care. It meets the Affordable Care Act requirement to have insurance and there are numerous ways to make this happen. The ACA deadline in Jan. 1, and help is right around the corner if needed. Veterans are always welcome to call or stop by the Bandera American Legion - veterans helping veterans. That's their mission!
For more information, call 1-877-222-VETS (8387).