Rounds Urges VA to Comply with 2010 Law that Protects Veterans from Exorbitant ER Bills
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to comply with the Veterans’ Emergency Care Fairness Act. This law, enacted in February 2010, is intended to make certain that veterans with private health insurance are covered by the VA if their outside insurance does not cover the full amount of non-VA emergency care. Despite its unanimous support and clear congressional intent, the VA has continued its previous policy of denying veterans’ eligible emergency room claims for the past six years.
Recently, a Minnesota veteran sued the VA after it failed to cover the cost of his emergency treatment as the 2010 law legally requires the agency to do. The U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled unanimously in April that the VA has been in violation of the Emergency Care Fairness Act since its passage. Unfortunately, the VA has appealed the decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It is a fact that those most affected by the VA’s non-compliance with the Emergency Care Fairness Act are our elderly veterans, many of whom are living on fixed incomes and have limited resources to pay medical bills,” said Rounds during his speech. “Often, these veterans find themselves dealing with collection agencies as a result of emergency care received in the community. In an era where we know that more than 20 veterans commit suicide every day, with 65 percent of those veterans aged 50 years or older, this is unacceptable.
“Today I call on the VA to drop their appeal of the Court’s ruling and begin writing new regulations that comply with the law as Congress intended to properly reimburse our veterans for their emergency room care. I fully understand that there is a cost associated with this course of action. Taking care of our veterans and complying with the law is not a cost issue, however. It is a moral and, in this case, it is also a legal issue. Complying with the intent of the Emergency Care Fairness Act is simply the right thing to do. Should the VA agree, I stand ready to support them in their efforts to take care of our veterans and to get them medical care they need, both from the VA and in the private sector.”