Medicare reimbursement bill introduced in House

Friday, July 31, 2009

Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., introduced legislation July 28 that would allow VA to bill Medicare for third-party reimbursements of eligible veterans for nonservice-connected medical conditions. The American Legion's leadership stressed the need for such legislation to Filner at its Veterans Planning and Coordinating Committee meeting July 21 in Washington.

Currently, VA is prohibited from billing Medicare for third-party reimbursements for the treatment of enrolled, Medicare-eligible veterans for medical conditions that are unrelated to their military service. Since the 1990s, The American Legion has strongly recommended Medicare reimbursements to supplement VA's health-care annual budget. Through congressional testimony and numerous interviews with the media, the Legion has promoted Medicare reimbursement as a new revenue stream for VA.

"We began lobbying for this in an effort to reopen access to VA to all veterans," said James Koutz, chairman of the Legion's National Legislative Commission. "The only criterion for access to VA health care should be honorable military service. Medicare is just an insurance payer, not a health-care provider."

The measure, "Medicare Reimbursement Act of 2009" (H.R.3365), has been referred to three House committees for consideration. Filner is chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

The day before Filner introduced his Medicare reimbursement bill, the House passed three bills July 27 that, if approved by the Senate, would improve benefits and services to veterans provided by VA. The legislation seeks to expand necessary life insurance options for veterans and their families, improve medical services at VA hospitals and clinics around the country, streamline the process for nonprofit research and education corporations to participate in VA endeavors, and provide essential support and training to those caring for wounded veterans.

"Today, the House passed a slate of bills that will have a significant impact on the lives of veterans when they become law," said Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "I would specifically like to thank the freshman members of this committee for their ability to get right to work and address the needs of our nation's veterans."

The passed legislation:

H.R. 3155, as amended - Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act (Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine)

This bill would provide support services to family and non-family caregivers of veterans, including educational sessions and one-stop access to support services at a caregiver support Web site. The bill would also make counseling and mental health services available to family and non-family caregivers of veterans.

H.R. 3219 - To make certain improvements in the laws administered by the VA secretary relating to insurance and health care (Filner)

This comprehensive bill would expand options for veterans and servicemembers to obtain life insurance policies that better fit their needs and the needs of their families. The bill also improves health services for veterans by increasing the participation of physician assistants at the Veterans Health Administration, prohibiting the collection of co-payments for certain veterans who are catastrophically disabled, establishing a Committee on Care of Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury, waiving housing-loan fees for some disabled veterans, expanding nursing-home care for certain veterans, and allowing Medal of Honor recipients to receive a priority status for medical services.

H.R. 2770, as amended - Veterans Nonprofit Research and Education Corporations Enhancement Act of 2009 (Filner)

This bill would modify and update provisions of law relating to nonprofit research and education corporations, so they can better support VA research.