Strengthening Our Commitment to Veterans’ Health

by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver
Posted July 3, 2013

As Americans gather together to celebrate our nation’s independence, we wanted to share how honored we are to have recently met with more than 200 veterans and their families in Independence, Missouri. We thanked them for their service and sacrifice. And we had the chance to share how we’re honoring our commitment to our veterans by strengthening our commitment to their health care.

That starts with the Affordable Care Act, which builds on the health care options already in place – including the high-quality, comprehensive VA health care system – to give veterans and their families even more choices and more security.

We made it clear that if you use Department of Veterans Affairs health care today, the health care law is not going to change that. There are no new requirements or fees. Nothing in the health care law changes access to VA benefits.

And for the many veterans and their families who rely on Medicare or an employer health plan, the only change is new benefits and stronger protections. For example, 6 million people on Medicare with high prescription drug costs are now saving an average of more than $600 a year on their medications. And many parents can now keep their children on their private plans up to age 26.

These kinds of benefits are already in effect. So if you’re one of those veterans who already has private or government coverage that you like, the law is already working for you.

But we also know some veterans buy their own coverage and more than 1.3 million veterans and more than 950,000 spouses and children of veterans have no health insurance at all. And while most uninsured veterans are eligible for VA health care, some are not.

It’s for people who need new coverage options like them that the health care law created a new Health Insurance Marketplace. Beginning October 1, the Marketplace will open for enrollment in every state, for coverage starting in January 2014. It will give veterans and their families – and all other eligible Americans – a whole new way to shop for private health insurance.

They will have a single place to visit online at HealthCare.gov, with simple, easy-to-understand information that helps them make apples-to-apples comparisons of health plans. All plans in the Marketplace must cover an essential set of benefits, including hospital visits, doctor visits, prescription drugs, and mental health services. Discrimination based on gender or pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, cancer, or PTSD, will be outlawed. And many veterans’ families will qualify for a break on their monthly premiums.

What this law means, simply, is more choices and more security for veterans and their families. But just because these new resources are available doesn’t mean veterans and their families know about them.

Americans can visit HealthCare.gov right now to get information, checklists, and other materials to help prepare for coverage this fall, including information for military and veteran families. They can also call a toll-free call center at 1-800-318-2596 that’s open 24/7 to provide information and answer questions in 150 languages.

As a nation, our highest obligation is ensuring our service members, veterans, and their families get the care and benefits they so clearly earned. That means making sure they can take full advantage of new benefits, protections, and coverage options in the Affordable Care Act.

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For more information, please visit:
HealthCare.gov and www.va.gov/healthbenefits