McMorris Rodgers Bill to Expand Veterans Emergency Care Coverage Passes House by Unanimous Vote

Bipartisan Momentum Builds to Eliminate Coverage Gap for Veterans

Mar 07, 2023
Press
Veterans

Click here or the image above to watch Cathy address the House of Representatives.

Washington, D.C. – The U.S House of Representatives tonight unanimously passed Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ (WA-05) Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency (RELIEVE) Act. This bipartisan legislation would eliminate a glaring gap in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s emergency care coverage and expand veterans’ access to medical treatment.

“The only thing scarier for a veteran than a trip to the emergency room is finding out the VA won’t cover the cost because of a loophole in the system. Closing this coverage gap and ensuring veterans can receive care when and where they need it most is critical,” said Rodgers. “The passage of this bill is a step in the right direction and brings us closer than ever before to achieving that goal.”

Under current law, a veteran must have received health services at a VA facility within the last 24 months in order to be covered under Care in the Community. This protocol fails to account for the reality that it often takes more than a month for a veteran to complete their first appointment, resulting in a critical gap in insurance coverage.

The RELIEVE Act would waive the 24-month rule for 60 days after a veteran enrolls in VA Health, giving him or her the time needed to establish care and prevent this from happening again. 

Cathy was joined in leading this bipartisan legislation by Representatives Jack Bergman (MI-01) and Chris Pappas (NH-01).

“While the Community Care program has made tremendous strides to improve Veteran access to health care, significant coverage gaps remain that threaten the health and financial livelihoods of our Veterans. The RELIEVE Act will address one of these significant gaps by extending coverage for non-VA emergency care for 60 days until a Veteran is able to have their first appointment at a VA facility. I’m grateful to my colleagues for approving this legislation in the House, and I look forward to continuing our work on behalf of our Nation’s Veterans.”

“No veteran should ever think twice about seeking the care they need during an emergency, but for too many New Hampshire veterans this is exactly what they are forced to do when VA coverage gaps result in uncovered services,” said Pappas. “I’m thrilled to see our bipartisan legislation pass the House today, which is an important step towards ensuring no veteran is faced with costly medical bills after receiving emergency care. I’ll continue working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law this year and close the emergency care coverage gap.”

BACKGROUND:

The idea for this legislation came from an Eastern Washington veteran who reached out to Cathy after struggling to get the VA to cover the cost of her emergency care. She’d recently enrolled in VA Health and scheduled her first VA doctor’s appointment after retiring from the service. Days before her appointment, she had a heart attack and rushed herself to the emergency room for care.

Despite following the VA’s rules and notifying them of her treatment within 72 hours, the VA denied her claims. Since she hadn’t been seen by a VA doctor in the last 24 months, she was not considered eligible for emergency Care in the Community. 

The RELIEVE Act would close this gap by treating enrollment in VA Health as receiving health services at the VA for emergency coverage under Care in the Community. Upon entering the VA Health systems, veterans would have 60 days to complete their first doctor’s appointment. Emergency care at non-VA facilities will be insured during that time, and once a veteran completes their first appointment, they will qualify for regular coverage under the VA’s 24-month rule, eliminating the gap.

Click here to read the bill.

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