GOP Health Care Bill Could Exclude 7 Million Veterans


The American Health Care Act (AHCA), the GOP proposal to replace former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA), could potentially render up to 7 million veterans ineligible to receive subsidies for their medical care.

When first introduced, the Republican health care proposal had offered tax credits to military service members who were not already enrolled in the Veterans Affairs (VA) program. Under the AHCA in its original form, veterans would have had the choice to either receive VA benefits or tax credits for private medical care, according to the Washington Examiner.

This has changed after House Republicans recently amended the bill.

On March 20, GOP lawmakers introduced several key changes to the AHCA in order to make it more palatable for members of the House Freedom Caucus, Business Insider reports.

While the major provisions of the technical amendment included shortening the timeframe for ACA taxes to be repealed and allowing state governors to place work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients, the changes also removed the language that gave veterans a choice between VA benefits or tax credits.

After being amended, the AHCA now states that veterans can qualify for tax credits only if they are not eligible for any other government benefits.

Senior health care analyst Chris Jacobs of the Texas Public Policy Foundation has estimated that rule change means that up to 7 million veterans who are "eligible for, but not enrolled in, VA coverage cannot qualify for the new insurance subsidies."

This would conflict with President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to provide more healthcare options for military veterans. In October 2016, Trump proposed enabling veterans to seek out doctors who accept Medicare instead of relying on the VA, according to The Hill.

It is unclear how the Trump administration could make private health care options more available for veterans if they do not qualify for tax credits while still eligible for VA benefits.

Trump enjoyed heavy support from veterans during the 2016 election. Exit polls indicated that former service members had voted for the president by 60 percent while only 34 percent had cast a ballot for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to CNN.

The House is scheduled to vote on the AHCA March 23. On March 21, Trump urged House Republicans to vote yes on the bill or potentially face consequences. 

"I honestly think many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don't get this done," Trump said. 

Sources: Business Insider (2), CNN, The HillWashington Examiner / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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