Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Update: Controversy Over Obama Plan to Charge Wounded Military Vets for Care

Off the Wire

Off the Wire:
NOTE: This article was updated on March 17 and March 18.
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2009 -- The Washington Post reported Tuesday that an Obama administration proposal to bill veterans' private insurance companies for combat-related injuries has continued to prompt veterans groups to condemn the plan as unethical. Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have promised to oppose it.

The White House confirmed Tuesday that the plan remained under consideration, and a meeting to discuss it further is scheduled for Thursday between Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and leaders of veterans groups.

The proposal would authorize the VA to bill private insurance companies for treatment of injuries and medical conditions related to combat-related conditions. The VA already pursues so-called third-party billing for non-service-related conditions.

An earlier article appears below.

WASHINGTON, March 16, 2009 -- Newswire services reported late Monday that leader of the nation's largest veterans organization says he is "deeply disappointed and concerned" after a meeting with President Barack Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries.

The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

"It’s a betrayal," said Joe Violante, legislative director of Disabled American Veterans. "My insurance company didn’t send me to Vietnam, my government did. The same holds true for men and women now fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s the government’s responsibility."

From newswire reports:
"It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan," said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. "He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it."

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, "This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ' to care for him who shall have borne the battle' given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm's way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America's veterans!"
Few details about the plan have been made available.

Veterans say that the costs of treating expensive war injuries could raise their insurance costs, in addition to costs for their employers. Some worried that it also could make it more difficult for disabled veterans to find work.

"I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted," said Commander Rehbein, "is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the President's financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future, according to the report.

(Report from newswire sources.)

The American Legion Strongly Opposed to President's Plan to Charge Wounded Heroes for Treatment
Obama mulls making vets foot bill for service injuries
Plan to bill insurance for combat injuries criticized

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