Veterans’ Health Groups, Lawmakers Oppose Deductible Plan
Veterans groups and members of Congress have said they will "resist" a Bush administration proposal that would make higher-income veterans and veterans without service-related disabilities pay a $1,500 annual deductible for care at Veterans Administration hospitals, the AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. As part of his fiscal year 2003 budget, President Bush has proposed that veterans who do not have service-related disabilities or other qualifications -- Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome illnesses, exposure to atomic tests or a Purple Heart -- and who have "slightly higher incomes" -- $24,000 if single and $28,000 for couples -- pay 45% of their medical costs up to $1,500 per year, the AP/Times-Dispatch reports. These veterans would continue to have "minimal copayments" after reaching the $1,500 ceiling. The AP/Times-Dispatch reports that the deductible plan is the result of an increase in the number of veterans eligible for the VA health program. Since 1996, when Congress passed a law opening VA medical facilities to "nearly all" veterans, enrollment in the VA health system has doubled to six million. The Bush administration estimates that the deductible program will save a total of more than $1 billion -- $885 million from reduced costs and $260 million from increased collections (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/9). VA CFO Mark Catlett said, "We have an explosion in our workload. In order to keep the system open, those in the high-income category are going to carry a larger share of the cost." But Jim Fischl, director of veterans affairs and rehabilitation at the American Legion, said that expecting veterans to pay $1,500 for health care is "grossly out of line" (AP/Washington Times, 2/10). Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.) said, "[P]ricing people out of [the VA health system] with a high deductible isn't a viable way" to adequately fund the system (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/9).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.