Ask Cheasty: What Does Health Reform Do for Veterans?

Dear Cheasty,

I am a veteran of the Vietnam War and I get my health care through the VA. Is the Affordable Care Act going to make me buy insurance, too? I don’t think it should, because I already get all my health care at the VA.

Vexed Veteran

Dear Veteran,

I think we can safely take the “vexed” out of your name, because the Affordable Care Act will not affect the health care you already receive from the Veterans Health Administration. If you get health care from the VA, you are NOT required to purchase additional insurance. If you want  to buy additional coverage, you are welcome to do so (it won’t compromise your existing VA benefits), but nothing in the law requires you to buy insurance. Hooray!

So that’s the quick and dirty: if you are eligible for VA health care, you will remain eligible. Nor does the Act change the TRICARE or TRICARE for Life benefits your family may receive. But let’s look at some other situations veterans find themselves in.

For veterans who are NOT eligible for VA health care and do not get insurance through an employer, they and their families may qualify for tax credits and subsidies that make purchasing health insurance easier and more affordable. Starting January 1, 2014, those veterans, just like every other uninsured Americna, can shop for insurance on the Health Insurance Exchange, and hopefully get some help finding coverage they can afford.

Well, what about veterans who get insurance coverage through an employer, you might ask? What then?

In that case, veterans will benefit from the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act. To sum it up, you will get preventive care with no co-pays, you won’t have lifetime or annual caps on your insurance benefits, and you won’t have to worry about being denied insurance (or charged more!) because of pre-existing conditions. If you want to know about additional benefits under the ACA, click here to read all about it.

So there you have it, Veteran. If you get health coverage through the VA, nothing will change for you in 2014. But if you know other veterans who don’t, the Affordable Care Act will be able to help them get access to better, more affordable coverage for them and their families. I hope this explanation has helped put you ‘at ease,’ soldier. (Haha.)

To a well and healthy Texas,

Cheasty Anderson

Do you have more questions about health reform? Email Cheasty at [email protected]