Wiser heads prevail

The Washington Post reported today on the uproar over an Obama administration budget proposal to permit the Veterans Administration to bill health plans and other third party payers for care rendered to veterans for service-connected disabilities. For many years, the VA has billed third party payers for care rendered to veterans for non-service-connected disabilities (38 U.S.C. §1729). The American Legion’s president explained today in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece why this extension threatened veteran’s health care.

It was pointed out to me that this budget proposal would be similar to shifting the cost of workers compensable health care from the employer to the health insurers. The budget proposal would only increase the cost of health insurance for the veterans and inappropriately relieve the government of its clear responsibility.

Tonight the White House issued the following press statement:

The President has consistently stated that he is committed to working with veterans on the details of the 2010 VA Budget Proposal. The President demonstrated his deep commitment to veterans by proposing the largest increase in the VA budget in 30 years and calling VSO and MSO leaders into the White House for an unprecedented meeting to discuss various aspects of the budget proposal. In considering the third party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans; however, the President listened to concerns raised by the VSOs that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families’ ability to access health care. Therefore, the President has instructed that its consideration be dropped. The President wants to continue a constructive partnership with the VSOs and MSOs and is grateful to those VSOs and MSOs who have worked in good faith with him on the budget proposal.

This is good news.