VA counsels veterans on health care options

Veterans enrolled in Veterans Affairs (VA) health care programs do not need to take additional action on their health insurance before Jan 1, 2014, to become compliant with the Affordable Care Act.

President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires people who can afford health insurance to have coverage in 2014, or otherwise pay a fine.

“The bottom line is that veterans who enrolled in the VA health care system are covered by the conditions of the Affordable Care Act, as far as having insurance,” said Stephen Gaither, public affairs officer for Harry S Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia.

“They don’t really have to do anything, as long as they’ve maintained their enrollment with VA Health Care,” he said.

The VA health care programs include the Veterans Health Care Program, the VA Civilian Health and Medical Program and the Spina Bifida Health Care Benefits Program.

Gaither said the VA is encouraging veterans and other beneficiaries who are not enrolled in the VA health system to do so.

“Check it out, fill out an application and submit it,” he said. “Now, they may not be eligible, but the only way to really find out is to fill out the application and submit it.”

The VA health care application can be submitted online at www.va.gov.

“You can also pick up the form at a local VA health care facility, such as the outpatient clinic there in Jefferson City or the medical center here in Columbia,” Gaither said. “Also, there are credentialed service officers for veterans service organizations, such as the Missouri Veterans Commission, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, The American Legion and a lot of other additional organizations.”

More information can also be found at www.va.gov/healthbenefits and www.va.gov/aca.

Gaither said his office has received numerous questions regarding veterans and the ACA. Brochures are available and the VA is also taking ACA information to VA outreach events.

“For example, last Friday we were at an outreach event here in Columbia for senior citizens,” Gaither said. “So, we’ve interacted with a lot of veterans, most of them already enrolled, so we could reassure them that they don’t have to do anything in order to comply with the law.”

‘Minimal essential coverage’

Healthcare.gov lists types of insurance that qualify as “minimum essential coverage,” which Americans will be required to have starting Jan. 1, 2014. VA health programs qualify as “minimum essential coverage.”

Other programs that qualify include:

• Any marketplace plan or an individual plan you already have

• Any employer plan

• Medicare

• Medicaid

• The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

• TRICARE, which is for current service members, military retirees, their families and survivors

• Peace Corps Volunteer plans

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