How Obamacare is affecting cancer treatment and veterans

The bumpy rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called “Obamacare,” has earned some justified criticism. But much of what people are saying about the ACA ain’t necessarily so.

For example, this summer a chain email read by thousands of seniors claimed that under the ACA, people over the age of 75 will be denied cancer treatment. This is simply not true. PolitiFact called this claim a “pants-on-fire” lie.

Cancer is difficult and expensive to treat. People with the most dangerous forms, such as mesothelioma, have enough to worry about beside how they will get treatment and pay for treatment. It’s understandable that people are nervous. But don’t believe every rumor you hear.

But how much will the ACA affect cancer treatment? What about veterans? If you get veteran’s benefits, do you have to sign up for anything else?

Cancer Treatment

The American Cancer Society has a web page devoted to the ACA that ought to reassure you. For example —

The ACA removes both lifetime and annual coverage caps. Before, insurance companies could put a dollar limit on how much they would pay for your treatment. Cancer patients in particular often found that their insurers had stopped paying for their treatment because their bills exceeded the limit. That won’t happen anymore.

The ACA provides that insurers cannot charge a fee for cancer screening tests. This is to encourage people to get regular cancer screenings, because cancers caught early have a better chance of being cured.

After January 1, 2014, insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. More importantly for many cancer patients, insurers cannot cook up some excuse to drop your coverage after you get sick.

The ACA makes coverage available for patients who take part in clinical trials. This is a big deal for many cancer patients. Clinical trials are studies testing new drugs or procedures to see how effective they are. Clinical trials are essential for cancer treatment research. And while there are no guarantees, many cancer patients who have exhausted other options get a new lease on life through clinical trials.

These rules apply to everyone, whether you get insurance through your employer or purchase it yourself on the new insurance exchanges.


Now, what about veterans? The Veterans’ Administration says that if you are enrolled in the veteran’s healthcare program; the Civilian Health and Medical program (CHAMPVA); or the spina bifida health care program, you are square with the ACA. The new law will not change your benefits or out-of-pocket costs.

Further, you don’t have to sign up or enroll in any other program. Go ahead and use your benefits just as you have in the past. If you are combining VA benefits with Medicare or other insurance, you can continue to do that, too.

In fact, some VA hospitals and clinics are trying to get the word out to all uninsured veterans — sign up for VA benefits! If you do, you won’t have to pay a penalty for being uninsured, and you won’t have to deal with the glitchy federal insurance website. If you think you might be eligible for VA benefits, you can go to the VA Health Benefits Explorer page and find out for sure.

Signing Up for “Obamacare”

Again, if you already have health insurance — from a job, from Medicare, from VA benefits, or elsewhere — you don’t have to sign up for anything regarding the ACA. If someone comes to your door or calls you and says they need information from you to enroll you in “Obamacare,” it’s a scam. Don’t fall for it.

The new insurance exchanges you may have heard about are only for people who don’t have insurance already, and they need to buy it for themselves. The exchanges help people connect with private insurance companies selling individual policies and determine if they are qualified to receive any subsidies.

If you don’t already have insurance, and you aren’t eligible for VA benefits or Medicare, you have until March 31, 2014, to get insured. Go to the Health Insurance Marketplace for more information.