Will Obama Go AWOL On VA Health Benefits?

Will Obama Go AWOL On VA Health Benefits?
March 18th, 2009  
Team Infidel

Topic: Will Obama Go AWOL On VA Health Benefits?

Will Obama Go AWOL On VA Health Benefits?
Wall Street Journal
March 18, 2009
Pg. 13

By David K. Rehbein
'If you were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and you have not paid your co-pay, please press 1. If you were injured during military training and you have not yet reached your deductible, please press 2. If your family has reached its maximum insurance benefit, please call back after you have purchased additional coverage. Thank you for your service."
Before the leaders of other veteran's groups and I met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Monday, I believed a phone call like the one described above unimaginable. Now it seems all too possible.
President Obama made clear during our discussion that he intends to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans with service-connected disabilities. He is trying to unfairly generate $540 million on the backs of veterans.
The proposed requirement for private companies to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would not only be unfair, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. Depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran's condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health-care benefits.
Currently, when veterans go to a VA hospital or related health-care facility for treatment of a service-connected disability, they receive the care without any billing to the veterans or the veterans' insurance. (On the other hand, those veterans who choose the VA for the treatment of nonservice-connected disabilities pay a co-pay, and the VA bills private insurance companies reasonable charges.)
Perhaps nobody would be hit harder by the Obama administration's proposal than the thousands of veterans who own small businesses. Not only will their private insurance premiums be drastically elevated to cover service-connected disabilities, but many will be forced to cut staff as a result. The unemployment rate for veterans may climb even higher, as businesses avoid hiring these heroes for fear of the impact they would have on insurance rates.
This plan is as unfair as it is unnecessary. According to the U.S. Constitution, it is the president and Congress who send troops in harm's way, not the CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
As head of the nation's largest veterans organization, I was startled by this radical shift of position the president has taken. Last October, candidate Obama listed several proposals he had for the VA and none of them included billing veterans' insurance providers.
In fact, when asked how he would improve the funding formula for the VA's health-care system, then-Sen. Obama toldthe American Legion Magazine, "It starts with the president saying that if I'm budgeting for war, then I am also budgeting for VA. If I've got a half-a-trillion-dollar Pentagon budget, then I'd better make sure that I make some of those billions of dollars available to care for the soldiers once they come home. It should be a non-negotiable proposition that people are receiving the services that they need. This is the reason I joined the Veterans Affairs Committee -- because I believe deeply in that principle."
So I ask President Obama now, for all America's veterans, where is that principled stance today? By abandoning its responsibilities to the heroic men and women who answered our nation's call, the federal government is breaking a sacred promise. Moreover, it is unnecessary.
The 2.6 million member American Legion has long advocated for Medicare to reimburse the VA for its treatment of Medicare-eligible veterans. Veterans pay into the Medicare-system, yet they are unable to use Medicare benefits in the VA health system, which was created specifically for them. The Indian Health Service is successfully billing and collecting needed revenue for both Medicare and Medicaid. We also believe that direct billing between two federal agencies will reduce the opportunities for waste, fraud and abuse that tend to occur when for-profit corporations enter the mix.
Our military veterans have already served this country. They have given us their blood, sweat and devotion. Under President Obama's proposal, the most severely wounded veterans could easily exceed their maximum insurance benefit, leaving their family without any additional coverage. This is hardly the thanks of a grateful nation.
Mr. Rehbein, a former U.S. Army sergeant of the Vietnam War era, is national commander of the 2.6 million-member American Legion, the nation's largest wartime veterans organization.

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