Major veterans’ groups voice concern over Senate health bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Major veterans’ organizations are voicing concerns about a Senate GOP bill to repeal the nation’s health care law, fearing the impact of rising insurance costs and worried the underfunded Department of Veterans Affairs won’t be able to fill the coverage gap.

While there are more than 21 million veterans in the U.S., only about 8 million receive health care from the VA. The others rely on Medicaid, purchase insurance on state or federal exchanges, have employer-provided insurance or have no coverage at all.

In a letter Tuesday to senators, Paralyzed Veterans of America, one of the six biggest nonpartisan veterans’ groups, criticized an “opaque and closed” legislative process and proposed cuts to Medicaid that could lead to hundreds of thousands of lower-income veterans losing their insurance.

It joins a Democratic-leaning group, VoteVets, in opposing the bill. VoteVets launched a six-figure ad campaign in two states, mostly to pressure moderate Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces a tough 2018 re-election race. Heller, who indicated his opposition to the bill last Friday, says he’s worried that too many people will lose coverage.

Two other major groups, Disabled American Veterans and AMVETS, also are expressing concern about the Senate legislation backed by President Donald Trump. They are worried the beleaguered VA — already facing an emergency $1 billion shortfall — won’t have enough money to provide federally paid health care to more patients and say VA must be better funded.

The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Vietnam Veterans of America have expressed broader concerns about VA underfunding but aren’t taking a position on the Senate bill.

“What will become of these veterans as they face higher insurance costs?” Carl Blake, associate executive director of Paralyzed Veterans, wrote in a letter sent to all 100 senators. He pointed to more than 1.7 million veterans now on Medicaid — nearly 1 in 10 — as well as veterans ages 45…

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