USA Today Looks at Veterans’ Efforts To Defeat Health Care Services Fee Increases
USA Today on Thursday examined how lawmakers who "initially embraced" a Bush administration proposal to increase the fees for health care services charged to veterans "considered less needy than others" later "backed down in the face of opposition from veterans' groups." Under the proposal, veterans with annual incomes above $25,000 who have no disabilities as a result of their service would be charged an annual $250 enrollment fee to receive coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs system and a $15 prescription drug copayment.
The proposal would have generated $450 million in 2006 and $3.9 billion over a decade to help meet growing demand for health care services among veterans, including those from Afghanistan and Iraq. Within weeks of the proposal's announcement, "galvanized" veterans' groups "made the case that most vets who use VA facilities can't afford private insurance," according to USA Today. The groups claimed the proposal "was intended to force hundreds of thousands of veterans out of the government health care system," USA Today reports.
In addition, public sentiment for veterans while at war, increased "political clout" for veterans during the 2004 presidential election and a forecast of a smaller budget deficit -- which is "allowing Republicans to reject virtually any new taxes or fees" -- resulted in "a quick about-face," and the proposal was "declared dead in Congress for the third straight year," USA Today reports.
However, Bush administration officials say an increase of less-needy veterans has "jeopardized care for those who are poor or were disabled in the line of duty," according to USA Today. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.), who led the effort to defeat the latest proposal, said, "I don't know how much longer we can hold ... off" increasing veterans' contributions for health care services (Wolf, USA Today, 7/7).