Capital Region

MVP Health Care expands its Medicare plan for veterans

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PHOTOGRAPHER:

SCHENECTADY — MVP Health Care is expanding a health insurance plan it has been testing that offers expanded benefits to veterans.

The Medicare Patriot Plan blends Medicare and Veterans Affairs benefits and was designed to reach a population that is sometimes underserved by the medical community.

MVP said the medical needs that veterans present are often different from other populations, particularly with greater incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nikki Hungate, Medicare product development leader for the Schenectady-based health insurer, said she attended a national Vietnam Veterans of America conference a few years ago and heard firsthand about the needs those vets had and the ways they weren’t being met.

Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant aerially sprayed from U.S. planes onto Vietnamese jungles, continues to cause problems for now-elderly people who were young servicemen sent to Southeast Asia in the late 1960s.

Hungate’s own father, who served in Vietnam with the Air Force veteran, is dealing with the effects. His VA benefits have increased over the years as his degree of disability has worsened.

The physical damage caused by Agent Orange is ​unique to Vietnam vets but the psychological damage caused by war is more widespread, from the dwindling ranks of World War II and Korean War vets to ​young men and women who fought in the War on Terror.

“We see the mental health needs across every era of veterans,” Hungate said.

Benefits offered by the Medicare Patriot Plan include free unlimited transportation to VA facilities and 12 one-way rides to other medical facilities; more choices of covered medication; $0 virtual care services; and free Silver Sneakers Fitness memberships at 16,000 facilities.

The coverage area has been expanded since the pilot program and is now available to residents of Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

The smaller counties in the Capital Region and in the Mohawk Valley are excluded because there are fewer veterans living there and because they are farther from the VA medical centers in Albany and Syracuse.

MVP provides prospective subscribers help choosing the right balance of cost and coverage and helps existing subscribers pick the right mix for themselves, Hungate said. 

Some vets prefer to rely as heavily as possible on Veterans Affairs medical care, others go to the VA first but may want a second opinion or alternate approach elsewhere, and others prefer treatment outside the VA system, she said.

Enrollment in the Medicare Patriot Plan is open through Dec. 7.

MVP has 1,700 employees and 700,000 members in New York and Vermont.

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