After four applications over a period of three years, I finally met the income requirements to be accepted into VA Healthcare. Every year, I must submit a form to requalify for the coming year. I am also approaching my 65th birthday, which raises the question of how does VA dovetail with Medicare, especially in regards to Medicare Part B and D. The answer to Medicare Part D was easy, but not so for Medicare Part B.The prescription drug plan for VA Healtcare does qualify for Medicare Part D. Whether it is the best option depends on your VA Healthcare priority group and your choice of how to handle Medicare Part B. In regards to Medicare Part B, I could not find an answer on either the VA Healthcare Web site or the Medicare Web site. I fired off a e-mail to Medicare on Sunday and got an answer Monday morning. Following is the answer that I received:
“Enrolling in Medicare is your choice.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care benefits to veterans. The VA covers a number of health care services, including preventive services, diagnostic tests, and hospital stays. It may also cover nursing home and other long-term care options.
“If you have both Medicare and Veterans benefits, you may be eligible to get health care services under either program. However, you’ll have to make a choice. Claims cannot be paid by both programs for the same dates and services.
“If you elect to have your claims submitted to Medicare, you will have to pay any deductible or coinsurance charged. However, any Medigap or supplemental policy you have may cover some or all of these charges.
“VA claims might require a co-payment for some services. You should call the Department of Veterans Affairs for more information.
“To get services under the VA, you must go to a VA facility or have the VA authorize services in a non-VA facility. If the VA authorizes services in a non-VA hospital but doesn’t pay for all of the services you get during your hospital stay, then Medicare may pay for the Medicare-covered part of the services that the VA does not pay.
“VA coverage is not considered creditable coverage for Part B.”
In terms of Medicare Part B, the key lies in the last sentence. Medicare Part A is free, but Medicare Part B costs around a $110 a month. If you choose not to accept Medicare Part B, theWelcome to Medicare booklet issues the following warning”
“If you don’t keep Part B when you’re first eligible, you may have to wait until the General Enrollment Period (January 1 – March 311 each year) to sign up, and you coverage would start July of that year. You may also have to pay a Part B late enrollment penalty.”
There is no single correct answer to this dilemma. Wihout a crystal ball, I don’t know if there will be a period when I do not qualify for VA Healthcare. Since the penalty for late enrollment in Mediare Part B never goes away, it like rolling dice over future events. For those vets covered, TRICARE is a qualified substitue for Medicare Part B. If you have any doubts, call Medicare.