McMorris Rodgers, Pappas, Bergman Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Veterans’ Emergency Care Coverage
Washington, D.C. (February 9, 2022) – Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), along with Representatives Jack Bergman (MI-01) and Chris Pappas (NH-01), today introduced the Removing Extraneous Loopholes Insuring Every Veteran Emergency (RELIEVE) Act. This bipartisan legislation would eliminate a glaring gap in veteran emergency care insurance coverage by expanding emergency coverage under Care in the Community for veterans.
“Earlier this year, a veteran contacted my office because her medical bills were piling up after needing emergency care. No matter how hard she tried, the VA refused to pay her expenses because of a coverage loophole made worse by the department’s inability to efficiently schedule appointments,” said Rodgers. “The VA’s systematic failure to see new patients in a timely fashion is putting undue financial stress on veterans at an already difficult time. We must do better, which is why I’m leading this legislation to ensure we roll out the red carpet for veterans and ensure their access to the best health care our country has to offer.”
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. Currently, 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 – a problem the pandemic has made worse with ongoing staff shortages and reduced hours – resulting in a critical gap in insurance coverage.
“It is unacceptable that veterans have to jump through so many hoops to have their health care covered by the VA, especially in the case of an emergency,” said Pappas. “This bipartisan legislation will cut the red tape veterans recently enrolled in VA health care face and ensure they can receive the reimbursements they are due. No veteran should ever think twice about seeking the care they need during a medical emergency, and no veteran should be faced with costly medical bills due or bureaucratic challenges for receiving that care. I look forward to working with my colleagues to pass this important bipartisan legislation.”
Failing to cover a veteran’s emergency care during a period without coverage can result in a crippling amount of debt that could take a lifetime to pay off. 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.
“The RELIEVE Act is one of many needed bridges to ensure new Veterans don’t fall into the abyss between the DOD and VA’s care coverage,” said Bergman. “With this bill we’ll seal away a dangerous loophole that could impose crippling emergency care debt on a recently separated servicemember.”
CLICK HERE to read the bill.