House Committee Rejects Bush Proposal to Charge Some Veterans a Deductible for Health Services
The House Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday rejected a proposal by the Bush administration to charge some veterans a $1,500 deductible for VA health care services, the Associated Press reports. In a recommendation submitted to the House Budget Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee said that the federal government should provide additional funds for veterans' health care programs rather than passing on the burden of rising health care costs to veterans. Veterans Affairs Chair Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) and ranking member Lane Evans (D-Ill.) wrote, "In this committee's view, such a dramatic change in current VA health care enrollment rules would be a disservice to veterans, and one that we believe has no chance of approval in Congress" (Abrams, Associated Press, 3/11). The deductible plan, included in President Bush's FY 2003 budget proposal, would require "priority 7" veterans -- those who have no service-related disabilities and incomes of more than $24,500 if single and $28,800 if married -- or their insurers to pay 45% of their medical bills until they reach a $1,500 annual limit. Last week, Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony Principi told lawmakers that the VA budget is "getting to crisis proportions," with an expected $400 million shortfall in revenues for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2001. Principi said he might be forced to limit enrollment in VA-sponsored health care programs if Congress did not approve the deductible plan (American Health Line, 3/7). To avoid limiting enrollment, the committee recommended that the administration increase its request for VA health care services funds by $1.8 billion, to $24.5 billion. The House is expected to vote next week on the budget for fiscal year 2003, which would take effect Oct. 1 (Associated Press, 3/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.