NEWS RELEASE: VA Emergency Billing Information Card
Attached Photo Caption: Robert Marenich, Chairperson, VFAC; (Lt) Cmdr. Don Harper, American Legion Post 861 (Rt)
On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Robert Marenich, Marine Corps veteran and chairperson of the Veterans and Families Advisory Committee (VFAC) at Sacramento VA Medical Center at Mather, Calif., gave an outstanding presentation explaining the new, vitally important and long-needed VA Emergency Billing Information Card, which will be used throughout the VA Northern California Healthcare System (VANCHCS) beginning in 2017. The VA Emergency Billing Information Card will provide specific instructions to qualified veterans, spouses, caregivers, EMTs and hospital emergency personnel, and billing instructions to hospitals, and will be distributed first to all qualified veterans who are enrolled at the Mather VA hospital.
The purpose of the card is to (1) direct the EMTs to take the ailing veteran to the nearest VA medical facility, if at all possible "Unless Urgent Care is immediately necessary," (2) have all bills sent directly to Mare Island payment center instead of the veteran, (3) reduce payment times to non-VA service providers, (4) ultimately reduce financial and emotional distress for veterans.
The need for change to the current system process was brought to the attention of the Veterans and Families Advisory Committee by members of American Legion Sacramento Legislative Action Post 861, after some of its members experienced severe financial hardship under the often slow process. In support, Harper formed a committee consisting of Ernie Larson and Bud Lee to write and formally present a pro-forma proposal to the VFAC at Mather, and the project was approved and adopted by Post 861. Leslie Winegar (Navy veteran and VA Veteran Experience Coordinator), Marenich, and Michael Williams (Army veteran) have done an admirable job of providing the necessary leadership and follow-through on the yearlong project by getting the VFAC and VA Northern California Healthcare System's administration to adopt the concept.
In September 2016 Winegar was promoted to VANCHCS and Marenich was appointed to lead the VFAC. It should be noted that Veterans Affiliated Council Commander Phil Rios is also a longtime contributing member of the VFAC at Mather. The VA Emergency Billing Information Card, once it is well-established in Northern California, is expected to be recognized and adopted in other regions and, eventually, nationally.