Monday, November 16, 2009

Treatment of military health services in the House bill

Under Act Sec. 311 in the House-passed bill (H.R. 3962), the existing authority of the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to provide health care services for members of the Armed Forces (including their dependents) and for veterans remains unchanged by the establishment of the Health Insurance Exchange.

OK. That sounds reasonable. But why did the House see the need to include this provision?

Well, last summer, three separate House Committees conducted a highly-publicized debate over the original version of the House's health reform measure (H.R. 3200). As that debate progressed, several veterans groups sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to voice their concern that the proposed health care overhaul would have an adverse impact on the cost and the quality of care currently available to members of the Armed Forces and to veterans.

Nobody wants to be perceived as treating the military poorly. So, the response to the veterans groups from the House Education and Labor Committee was two-fold. The Committee first noted that the original version of H.R. 3200 contained protections for health care services currently provided to the military and for veterans. (To take an example from the final House bill, under Act Sec. 501 military health services are classified as "acceptable" health coverage. Thus, those covered under military health services are not subject to the penalty (equal to 2.5% of income) for failure to obtain acceptable coverage.)

In addition, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-IN) proposed an amendment intended to clarify that military health services were intended to be exempt from the new legislation. A slightly altered version of that amendment became Act Sec. 311.


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