Q: I am going to be 65 next year, and I have a nice coverage from VA benefits. Can I have both Medicare and VA benefits, and if so, what additional coverages am I suppposed to buy?
A: You can have both Medicare and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. However, Medicare and VA benefits do not work together. Medicare does not pay for any care that you receive at a VA facility.
In order for Medicare to cover your care, you must receive care at a Medicare-certified facility that works with your Medicare coverage.
In order for your VA coverage to cover your care, you must generally receive health care services at a VA facility.
Medicare Part B and VA Coverage:
Many veterans use their VA health benefits to get coverage for health care services and itemsnot covered by Medicare, such as over-the-counter medications, annual physical exams and hearing aids. However, you may want to consider enrolling into Medicare Part B (medical insurance), even if you have VA coverage. Part B may cover services you receive from Medicare-certified providers and provide you with medical coverage outside the VA health system. In addition, if you do not enroll into Part B when you are first eligible to do so, you will most likely incur a Part B premium penalty for each 12-month period you were without Medicare Part B coverage. In addition, you may also experience gaps in coverage.
Some veterans only use their VA drug coverage to get their medications, since VA drug coverage may offer more generous prescription drug coverage than Medicare Part D, the Medicare prescription drug benefit. Since VA drug coverage is considered creditable, meaning it is as good as or better than the Medicare prescription drug benefit, you can delay enrolling into Medicare Part D without penalty. If you do lose VA drug coverage, make sure you enroll into a Part D plan within 63 days of losing your VA benefits.
Note that although you can have both Medicare Part D and VA drug coverage, the two do notwork together. VA benefits only cover the drugs you get from VA pharmacies and Part D plans usually only cover drugs you get from pharmacies that are within the plan’s network.
You may want to join a Part D plan in certain situations. You may want to enroll in a plan if you move into a nursing home outside of the VA health system and need coverage for medications from the nursing home pharmacy. You may also want to enroll in a Part D plan if you qualify forExtra Help, the federal assistance program that helps people with Medicare afford their Part D drug costs.
If you have questions about VA benefits and coverage, contact the VA Health Administration Center at 1-800-733-8387 or 1-877-222-VETS (877-222-8387).