Medical care is one of the fastest growing expenses facing Americans. To help make medical care coverage more accessible for all, the government passed the Affordable Care Act — also known colloquially as “Obamacare.” The Affordable Care Act required Americans to maintain health care coverage by January 1, 2014, with the idea being that more people covered by health insurance would reduce overall health care costs for the majority of Americans and make it easier for people to obtain health care coverage.
Under the Affordable Care Act, people have several choices regarding their health care coverage. They can choose to retain a health insurance plan that meets minimum essential health coverage standards, qualify for an exemption or elect to pay a fine when filing their taxes if they are eligible for affordable health insurance but choose to remain uninsured.
Most businesses with large numbers of employees are also required to offer health insurance coverage to their workers, which can also make health insurance more accessible.
VA Health Care Enrollment Satisfies the Minimum Essential Coverage
If you are enrolled in the VA health care system, then you should have the minimum essential health care coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Eligible health care plans include the Veterans’ Health Care Program, Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), and the Spina Bifida Health Care program. However, it’s important to note that your entitlements under the VA system aren’t necessarily changed by the Affordable Care Act. Your benefits and coverage should remain the same as they were before the Act was passed. The health care law does not change VA health benefits or out-of-pocket expenses.
For many veterans, that means they will have limited health care coverage through the VA and may have to pay out-of-pocket expenses for care they receive through the VA. For example, many veterans with a service-connected disability receive free health care coverage for the condition for which they have a service-connected rating. But other medical conditions that don’t have a service-connected rating may not be covered. You may still be able to seek medical care at a VA hospital or clinic, but you would likely have to pay a copay or use a different insurance plan to pay for the medical care if you don’t meet certain income requirements or disability rating requirements for free medical care.
Are you eligible for VA Health Care? Many veterans are unaware they are eligible for VA health care benefits. Click here to learn more about VA health care eligibility. You can also check out our Veterans Benefits Guide to learn about other benefits you may be eligible to receive.
Penalties for Not Obtaining Health Care Coverage
Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act imposes penalties on individuals who have access to affordable health care but choose not to maintain coverage. You will have to pay this penalty when filing your taxes. The fee schedule is the larger amount of:
- $95 or 1% of your taxable income in 2014
- $325 or 2% of your taxable income in 2015
- $695 or 2.5% of your taxable income in 2016
If you are eligible for VA health care coverage, then it’s a good idea to at least maintain your VA health care enrollment, regardless of whether or not you use the services. This will help you maintain the minimum essential health care coverage and avoid paying any penalties.