Health Insurance Reform Mythbuster: 'Reform Undermines Health Care For Veterans and Military Families'


Health insurance reform opponents continue to spread myths about the recently-passed Affordable Health Care for America Act, including saying that reform will undermine the health care that veterans and military families have now. The latest myth spread by some Republican Members is that the bill passed by the House fails to ensure that veterans and service members will have the choice to purchase insurance through the Exchange. But the facts continue to knock these myths down.

MYTH: “The House-passed health insurance reform bill reneges on a promise to ensure veterans, service members, and their dependents have the choice of enrolling in the new Health Insurance Exchange.”

FACT: The Affordable Health Care for America Act fulfills Democrats' commitment to ensure choice for veterans, service members, and their families. The House-passed bill allows veterans receiving VA health care or service members and their families receiving TRICARE to also enroll in an insurance plan through the bill's Health Insurance Exchange.

Section 302(d) specifically allows all individuals into the Exchange except those enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, and certain employer-sponsored insurance. Listening to veterans' organizations, the bill was strengthened to provide that veterans, service members, and their families are now permitted into the Exchange at their option in addition to maintaining enrollment in veterans' health care or TRICARE. (In H.R. 3200 as introduced, veterans enrolled in VA health care and service members enrolled in TRICARE did not qualify for the Exchange.) This provides veterans and service members the opportunity to obtain additional coverage for themselves and their dependents if they desire.

This provision addresses clearly a key concern of many veterans' organizations. For example, the Disabled American Veterans had written: “Any national health care reform legislation must make certain all veterans, including those enrolled in VA health care, remain eligible to enroll in any exchange-participating health benefits plan offered under [the bill] through the Health Insurance Exchange, or in any other public or cooperative health insurance program.”

MYTH: “Enactment of the House health insurance reform bill would undermine the health care that veterans and military families are receiving now.”

FACT: Veterans' health care and TRICARE (for military families) would not be impacted by passage of the House passed Affordable Health Care for America Act. Nothing in the bill would affect, change, or undermine the health care that veterans enrolled in VA health care and military families enrolled in TRICARE are currently receiving.

Further language has been included in the Affordable Health Care for America Act that makes clear that the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense retain full authority to operate the VA health care system and TRICARE without interference from the Health Choices Administration or other agencies established by the legislation. In addition, specific language has been included to exempt TRICARE from the requirements of the essential benefits package and other insurance requirements.

MYTH: “Veterans and military families enrolled in VA health care and TRICARE will be penalized for not having acceptable coverage — being forced to pay the penalty of 2.5 percent of adjusted income.”

FACT: The Affordable Health Care for American Act as passed recognizes VA health care and TRICARE as acceptable minimum coverage–so enrollees are already meeting the shared responsibility requirement and will face no fee or penalty.

Specifically, the bill contains a section that states that 1) individuals enrolled in the veterans' health care program; and 2) individuals and dependents enrolled in TRICARE will be considered as having acceptable minimum coverage — meaning they have met the bill's shared responsibility requirement for individuals to purchase insurance if they can afford it. In other words, individuals enrolled in VA health care or TRICARE will never be subject to the bill's 2.5 percent fee for those who choose not to purchase affordable health insurance.

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