Bill would extend health coverage to adult children of CHAMPVA beneficiaries

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, late Thursday introduced legislation that would expand eligibility requirements for children who receive health care under the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Veterans Affairs Department.

"I believe it is only fair to afford children who are CHAMPVA beneficiaries the same eligibility as dependent children whose parents have private sector coverage," Akaka said in a floor speech. More than 336,000 people are enrolled in the program, which was established in 1973 to provide health care services to dependents and survivors of disabled veterans.

The bill, S. 3801, would raise CHAMPVA eligibility for dependent children to age 26. Coverage for children under the insurance program currently expires when they turn 18 unless they are full-time students, in which case they continue to receive care until they turn 23 or stop attending school on a full-time basis. It was referred to the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee for consideration.

CHAMPVA is similar to the Defense Department's TRICARE health insurance program for active-duty and retired military personnel and their dependents. Those eligible for CHAMPVA include spouses and children of permanently and totally disabled veterans with service-connected disabilities and surviving dependents of veterans who die from service-related disabilities.

The legislation Akaka introduced is similar to bills presented last spring in the House and Senate that would extend TRICARE coverage to adult children up to age 26. Those bills are now under consideration in the House and Senate Armed Services committees.

The aim of all three bills is to give CHAMPVA and TRICARE beneficiaries the same benefits now available to other Americans established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) President Obama signed into law on March 30.

"Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, families with private health insurance coverage can keep their children on their plans until age 26," Akaka said in a statement. "Surely coverage for veterans' family members in need should meet this new national standard."

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