Tuesday, March 17, 2009
AMVETS Speaks with President Obama on Third-Party Billing
On Monday afternoon, AMVETS Executive Director Jim King had the opportunity to meet with President Barack Obama and leaders from the nation's leading veterans' service organizations to discuss the controversial third-party billing proposal for service-connected veterans.
AMVETS was encouraged by the President's commitment to not implement the new policy outright, should it have negative effects on veterans. However, Obama and the White House staff would not entirely rule out a policy change, and asked for help from veterans' leadership to come up with alternative proposals to fund the VA internally.
On the surface, the proposal seems to be a reasonable way from the VA to bring in extra income, since the White House has assured the veterans' community that the VA would not directly bill veterans for any service-connected medical services. However, when the cost is passed along to a third-party insurance company, AMVETS is concerned that the proposal could have serious unintended consequences for veterans, making many uninsurable in the private sector.
King said that veterans would quickly reach their third-party caps for health care within a few short visits to treat service-connected conditions. Veterans could also face drastic increases in premiums, or lose third-party coverage altogether, since they will become a greater liability for private insurance companies. The proposal could also have detrimental effects on veteran employers and business owners, driving up the costs of health care for veteran-friendly businesses.
King suggested to the White House that the VA step up its current third-party billing for non-service-connected conditions to help recoup some vital income. On Thursday, AMVETS legislative team will have the opportunity to present White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel with alternatives to the third-party billing proposal.
AMVETS remains vehemently opposed to the controversial policy, and AMVETS' leaders will continue to work with the White House and the VA to ensure that it does not become a reality. During recent testimony on Capitol Hill, AMVETS Legislative Director Ray Kelley and the Independent Budget partners voiced their fervent opposition to the proposal. Their concerns resonated with both Congressional committees on veterans' affairs, as both committee chairmen, Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Bob Filner, indicated that they would not approve a VA budget proposal that included third-party billing for service-connected veterans.
American Veteran magazine will be following this story closely. Check back regularly with the blog for updates.
(Photo: President Barack Obama visits with troops at the Pentagon in January for the first time as Commander-in-Chief. DoD photo by MC1 Chad J. McNeeley, released.)