White House Drops Plan To Charge Insurers for Vets’ Service Injuries
On Wednesday, President Obama abandoned a proposal that would have required military veterans to use private insurance to cover treatment of combat-related injuries, according to the White House, McClatchy/Detroit Free Press reports (Goldstein, McClatchy/Detroit Free Press, 3/19).
The plan was included in Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget proposal.
It would have directed the Department of Veterans Affairs to bill private health insurers for treatment of injuries and conditions sustained as a result of veterans' military service. Currently, VA covers those costs and bills health insurers only for treatment for conditions unrelated to veterans' military service (California Healthline, 3/17).
The Obama administration had said the change would save about $530 million annually (Rucker, Washington Post, 3/19).
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the administration had considered the plan as a way "to maximize the resources available to veterans," but Obama "listened to concerns raised by the (veterans' groups) that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans' and their families' ability to access health care" (Johnson, CQ Today, 3/18).
Gibbs said, "The president has instructed that its consideration be dropped" (Pear, New York Times, 3/19).
On Wednesday, 68 Democratic and Republican House members sent a letter to Obama urging him to drop the plan.
In addition, representatives of 11 veterans groups met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday to discuss the proposal.
American Veterans National Executive Director Jim King said the meeting lasted 15 minutes and health insurance was the only topic discussed. King said the veterans representatives told him they would not back down from their stance against the changes (Tiron, The Hill, 3/18).
David Gorman, executive director of Disabled American Veterans, said, "Our message to the president was simple and direct: that our government must not abandon its moral responsibility to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms" (DiMascio, Politico, 3/18).
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said the decision not to pursue the changes "is welcome news. Now we can focus on issues that are much more pressing" (Barnes, Los Angeles Times, 3/19) (News low in story).
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) issued a statement saying that Obama "did the right thing in dropping this proposal" (Washington Post, 3/19).
Administration officials have told veterans' groups that they will look for ways to save a similar amount of money, such as by collecting payments from private insurers that cover some nonservice-related care for veterans (New York Times, 3/19).
On Wednesday, NBC "Nightly News with Brian Williams" reported on Obama's decision to drop the plan. The segment includes comments from two veterans, Votevets.org Chair and veteran Jon Soltz, and Murray (Miklaszewski, "Nightly News with Brian Williams," NBC, 3/18).KPCC's "Air Talk" included a discussion of the proposal Wednesday (Mantle, "Air Talk," KPCC, 3/18). 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.