Rounds leads call for VA to protect veterans from costly emergency care bills

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) led a bipartisan call for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to uphold a 2010 law that protects veterans from expensive emergency room visits.

Rounds and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) led a letter calling on VA Secretary Robert McDonald to uphold the Emergency Care Fairness Act (ECFA) of 2010, which requires the VA to cover the remaining costs of veterans’ emergency room visits when private plans don’t cover the entire amount.

Six years after the law’s enactment, veterans continue to bear the burden of emergency treatment costs that aren’t covered by third-party insurance, the letter states.

“Congress’s clear intent in passing the ECFA was to expand veteran eligibility for reimbursement for emergency treatment furnished to veterans in non-department facilities,” the letter states.

“It is evident that the VA has ignored congressional intent. Most troubling is the fact that those who are most affected by the VA’s non-compliance with the ECFA are our elderly veterans, many of whom are living on fixed incomes and have limited resources to pay medical bills.”

Often those veterans find themselves facing collection agencies as a result of not being able to afford their emergency care visits, the letter said.

In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims ruled that Congress intended that the VA be responsible for the cost of the emergency treatment which exceeds the amount payable or paid by the third-party insurer in the case of Staab v. Secretary McDonald.

The letter concludes by urging McDonald to bring the VA into compliance and to amend any policy, regulation or other barrier that results in denial of veterans’ claims for reimbursement of emergency care.

Twenty-two senators, including six members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, signed the letter.