I am going on Medicare in a few months and have recently been awarded CHAMPVA. I hear CHAMPVA does not pay claims timely and therefore should I also sign up for a Medigap plan also?


Jim's Reply:

How much insurance you want and need is a very personal and individualized decision. My personal experience with CHAMPVA via my wife using it is that it's simply great insurance. In many years of using CHAMPVA we've had only a small handful of problems that we resolved pretty quickly. I believe they pay as quickly as most any insurer does.

I urge veterans to set up the accounts at doctors offices by visiting their insurance billing staff long before seeing the doctor. Paperwork glitches don't go well at CHAMPVA so you need to be sure all the t's are crossed and all the i's are dotted. For procedures or specialists referrals, call CHAMPVA ahead of time and get your preapprovals in line. Patience!

CHAMPVA and Medicare have unique rules and coverages so as you blend the two policies together, you should spend enough time learning about who covers what and when that you won't have any issues.

I've never thought much of Medigap and similar policies. They're expensive and don't really help that much. Rather than sending my money to an additional insurer I set aside an amount equal to that for use with any out of pocket expenses I may incur. I'm way ahead at this point.

I'm glad you're putting thought into this. If done right the combo of Medicare and CHAMPVA puts you in one of the most insured groups in America...well worth sorting through any details.

Your next task...what do you do in an emergency? Where do you go? If you aren't conscious, what do family members tell paramedics about where to take you? Do you know which hospital you want to go to? You can save a bundle of money, and maybe your life, with planning. Good luck!