This is a letter I sent to numerous elected officials and the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. There is not a lot of logic in locking veterans out of Health Savings Accounts should they get any kind of treatment from the VA:
Dear INSERT NAME HERE,
As you may or may not know, all US companies that are providing healthcare to their employees are implementing Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant insurance policies by the Jan 1, 2014 deadline. My company is providing its employees with very informative briefings on this topic (for which I am very grateful). The goal of this letter is simple; to inform you of something wrong with the ACA and try to right a wrong.
I am relatively healthy except for an injury that cut short my time in the US Air Force. I have long thoracic nerve palsy that causes winging of my scapula. As you can only imagine this is very painful. Every day I experience nonstop, incessant pain; some days are better than others but my pain scale lives between five and ten. I should also point out that I am not getting disability from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) for this injury (the exam and appeals process with the VA is very broken). Due to the expensive nature of treatment for my injury I use the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina and unless there is a clerical error I typically do not have to worry about coverage for my injury. I use the VA only for treatment of this specific injury as I am sure you are aware, the VA health care system is outmoded and unresponsive.
When the ACA was passed I was worried that it would affect my VA benefits but the VA assured veterans that would not be the case. Yesterday, during a briefing at my office, we had the pleasure of having a representative from our insurance company available to answer questions about changes to the health care system and our policies. I found out that the ACA is not going to have an impact on my VA benefits but will significantly limit my private insurance options (I have essentially only one option). Yesterday, a bullet on the presentation we were given stated if, “You have received benefits, including prescription drugs, from the Veterans Administration in the last three months,” you will be unable to contribute to a Health Savings Account (HSA). This essentially removes my employer’s High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with HSA as an insurance option for my family. It does not make fiscal sense to pay exorbitantly more for coverage without the HSA to ease the financial burden of costly medical treatments. In theory, my family is being excluded from a potential savings of $6,550 per year because of an expectation that the government that broke me has an obligation to fix me.
I have set aside the fact that my coverage is being cut and my premiums are going up because I understand the reasoning (educating people how to properly use healthcare would be a better effort prior to the ACA but that’s neither here nor there at this point). However, to take my care options from essentially four to one (a “Classic Care” plan that the Aetna rep clearly stated would be going away eventually) is not only not bad business but is going to cost me dearly when that “Classic Care” plan does indeed go away because I will not have an HSA to fall back on to pay for treatment.When the classic healthcare plans go away I will be forced to drop out of care from the VA and get the HDHP with HSA as my wife likely can’t be covered by the VA and my daughter lives in another state with her mother. I will have lost the potential of years of savings through an HSA. I choose to go to the VA because the treatments I am receiving at this point are experimental and I cannot get private insurance to cover them (nor should I given a promise made to me by my country).
I implore you to think about the spirit of the ACA and ask yourself if you would rather citizens pay their healthcare bills and veterans be stuck between two bad options or if everyone should have equal access to all forms of coverage just as they used to. I was on the bad end of the stick more than I cared to be while I was in the USAir Force. Now it seems veterans are on the wrong end entirely with this illogical provision in the ACA. Your attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.
NOTE: Thank you, Jeff for allowing me to share this with your fantastic audience.
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