I was recently enrolled in ChampVA through my husband. I also have OHI through my employer. Can I drop that insurance and just have ChampVA?


Jim's Reply:

Yes, you can drop private pay insurance and save that money. And many do just wife and I did.

Whether or not you'll be happy will depend on your tolerance for jumping through hoops. CHAMPVA isn't as easy to work with as your typical BC/BS employer plan. There are preapprovals required, lost paperwork, unanswered phones and don't even think of emailing anyone there. Always remember, it's the VA. We have our best luck hanging on the phone and calling again and again until we get someone who knows what's up. I hear that they have an old school fax machine and that's the only way they communicate with regional offices.

If you have an established relationship with a doctor you like, ask her office manager to take a few minutes and talk insurance with you before you drop the private pay. If you don't have an established relationship with a provider, now may be a good time to do that and talk with them about insurance.

While you're at it, ask a couple of practice managers or insurance billing clerks to chat with you about how they get paid. They're always happy to do makes their job a lot easier.

Having said that, once you are into the plan and your doctors are used to it and you have your mail order pharmacy set up, CHAMPVA works really well and covers most expenses. There are plenty of preventive services just so long as you get that preapproval.

Our doctors are perfectly happy with it although my wife has to watch the billing process carefully and she's always prepared to jump on the phone to straighten out a problem. We've started her transition to Medicare so there are more hoops to jump through but overall, it's worth it to have great health care at a very reasonable cost. My stepson has CHAMPVA for his family and the wife and two kids are very well cared for by CHAMPVA while VHA takes good care of him.

It's good, cost effective health insurance. Go for it.