Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Veteran's Health Crisis

Almost 13% of veterans – 1.8 million - lack health insurance, and many who might be eligible for care in VA facilities do not live close enough to one to utilize it. Like most Americans without health insurance, most of these vets are employed but their employer does not offer insurance and they cannot afford to purchase it privately. In addition, 3.8 million family members of these vets lack health insurance.

The crisis in veteran’s care is only getting worse, and will get much worse as mental and physical problems associated with the Iraq war continue to increase. When elected to congress I will propose a fairly straightforward solution: the creation of “Medicare Part V”. Medicare Part V would have benefits equal to those provided by VA coverage, but would reimburse any Medicare provider (physicians, hospitals, labs, physical therapy centers, imaging facilities, etc.). Any veteran who does not have health coverage could then receive coverage through Medicare Part V. Any veteran who lives far from a VA facility who would prefer to get care through local providers could “opt-out” of the VA System and select Medicare Part V instead. We should decide also if we would want to extend this to uninsured families of veterans, or at least allow them to purchase coverage through this system if they cannot get private coverage. This would lessen the pressure on the VA system and remove the backlog of vets waiting to get care.


Anonymous said...

Medicare V is a grand idea! I had always thought in terms of vouchers so that vets could use the excess capacity in the local hospitals and other facilities. There are also many uninsured who make up the only 30% who aren't already under some form of government insurance. Free enterprise can bid for the governments business like they do for the VA medicine contracts! Too many states are having universal coverage and that really should happen at a federal level!

Terry said...

I myself have dealt with the VA health care system after being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. I faced a few different problems that, when combined, left me with no VA health coverage.

First off, appointment priority is based on the disability rating of the veteran. This percentage rating is given at the time of discharge. The percentage is based on "how disabled" you are based on injuries sustained while in service. In many areas, Brevard County being the one that I dealt with, the VA clinics and hospitals are so overrun with retirees that have high disability ratings that a veteran with 0% rating cannot get an appointment. I tried once and had it scheduled for 8 months in the future!

The second problem was the disability rating itself. I had multiple re-occurring medical problems documented over a 5 year period in my service medical record that were directly related to my service. For example, chronic shin splints and 15% hearing loss. Neither of these two items were severe enough to rate me even 1%. I do not believe I should have been ranked up along those missing limbs but for the military to deny that my service had negative impacts on my long term health is insulting.

The lack of VA care when I was discharged hurt because I went back to college full time to better my education instead of going back to work full time. So my family and I ended up with little to no medical coverage for two years.

I like the idea that you mentioned in this article but I worry about the cost. Most veterans would opt-out of VA treatment due to its sparse regional coverage and the fact that most veterans have a bad opinion of military or military related doctors. This would put a higher load on public health institutions and at the current rates cost the tax payers a drastic increase in funds. If you can solve the outrageous medical costs and decrease the ridiculous spending so that this can be funded without increasing taxes then I will support it 100%.