Aug 8, 2019

Veterans face surprise medical bills from non-VA hospitals

More veterans are able to get more care outside the VA system, but improper billing oversight has put thousands at risk for unanticipated hospital bills.

By the numbers: A report this week from the VA’s Office of Inspector General found that many veterans’ claims were improperly denied after they sought care in the emergency rooms of non-VA facilities.

  • The OIG estimated that about 17,400 veterans were billed for care the VA should have covered, totaling about $53 million.
  • The universe of potential effects is even bigger. Not every hospital ended up billing veterans for their denied claims, but roughly 61,000 veterans were at risk for such a bill, the OIG found.

What happened: The part of the VA that handles these claims prioritized speed — making a lot of decisions as quickly as possible — over accuracy, the OIG said.

  • The inappropriate denials were largely a product of processing errors, and when claims are processed incorrectly, patients who do get a bill may not have the accurate information they need to contest it.

My thought bubble: There’s a practical, non-ideological argument for expanding veterans’ options outside VA facilities, and that case is especially intuitive for emergency care. But the VA is still dropping the ball if it’s not actually covering that care the way it should.

Go deeper: Veterans' private health care program led to longer waits

Go deeper

Trump signs memo to cancel disabled veterans' student loan debt

President Trump after a speech at the American Veterans National Convention at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, Aug. 21. Photo: by Scott Olson/Getty Images

President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that cancels the student loan debt of permanently disabled U.S. military veterans.

Why it matters: More than 25,000 disabled veterans will have their student debt forgiven as a result of the memorandum, according to the Trump administration. Per Fox News, it means eligible veterans won't have to pay federal income tax on the loans.

  • Trump's Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had for months resisted such action, even in the face of calls from a large bipartisan group of state attorneys general.
Keep ReadingArrowAug 22, 2019

The looming crisis in long-term care

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Taking care of the aging population is a crisis in the making, and no one — not families, not government programs and not the health care workforce — is prepared for it.

The big picture: Providing health care to aging Baby Boomers will strain Medicare’s finances, but the problem is even bigger than that.

Go deeperArrowAug 19, 2019

Surprise bills are everywhere

Data: Sun, Mello, Moshfegh and Baker, 2019; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Surprise medical bills have gotten more common and more expensive, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Why it matters: These bills can be devastating to patients, even those who have some savings and a steady source of income.

Go deeperArrowAug 13, 2019 - Health