Begich Works to Reduce Health Fees for Veterans
Legislation would waive copayments for telehealth visits
In an effort to reduce the financial burden on veterans living in rural areas, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has introduced legislation with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) to waive copayments for telehealth and telemedicine visits for veterans. The bill amends Title 38 of the U.S. Code (related to Veterans Benefits) to give the Secretary of Veterans Affairs authority to waive the fee.In Alaska, there are currently more than 200 veterans, 100 of those living in rural Alaska, enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) Telemedicine Program paying up to $50 per visit for a copayment on a telehealth appointment. “Telemedicine has become an increasingly integral part of addressing the needs of veterans living in rural and remote communities and is a critical piece to ensuring they have proper access to health care,” Begich said. “This simple fix of waiving the copayment lessens the burden on our veterans who have sacrificed in service to our great nation.” Begich said he believes waiving the fees may encourage more veterans to take advantage of VHA’s telehealth programs, which save taxpayer money by eliminating or reducing the need for travel for some health services. The VHA’s Telemedicine Programs have showed reduced hospital admissions, clinic and emergency room visits, and contribute to the overall improved quality of life for veterans. “For rural veterans in Alaska, who sometimes have to travel by float planes or boats or even snow machines to get to a clinic for monitoring for diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, more use of telehealth can only result in lower costs and better health,” Begich added.