WASHINGTON (AP) – Families of reservists called up for the war could be in a health care jam. After 30 days of active duty, insurance coverage by the reservists’ regular employers switches to a military plan, and that can mean having to switch doctors.
Lawmakers want to let them keep their private coverage, with the government picking up the premiums.
In the past week, the Bush administration has begun urging government agencies to continue paying the premiums for federal employees called to active duty so that they can keep their employer-based insurance with no penalty.
And in Congress, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Mike Capuano, both Massachusetts Democrats, have offered legislation that would amend health laws to allow activated reservists to keep their employer-based coverage. The federal government would pay their premiums.
“The object here is to provide more seamless coverage for dependents and reservists so they don’t have to drop out of their civilian program, . . . and then somewhere down the line, go about re-establishing their insurance,” said Steve Anderson, legislative counsel for the Reserve Officers Association.
With the efforts under way, “They can continue with the doctors they know,” Anderson said. “It will be more seamless.”
Kennedy said “the least we can do for these brave men and women is to help their families at home by assuring they receive quality health care without interruption during their absence.”
So far, close to 213,000 reservists have been mobilized. Supporters said the changes essentially would help family members of reservists. Those mobilized for more than 30 days of duty, and their family members, are covered under the military health insurance program known as TRICARE.
While the reservist has easy access to healthcare while in service, family members often must scramble to find new doctors in order to accommodate their new health plan.
The sudden change can be even more traumatic if a member of the family is undergoing a specific treatment regimen, supporters of the bill said.
The idea of helping ease health care problems of activated reservists’ families already has found some Republican support.