We the Patients

Rising Cost Of Health Insurance Leaves Veteran Searching For Options – Frank Kusk, Queens County

After faithfully serving his country in the Vietnam War, Frank Kusk, a 75-year-old New Yorker felt it was his duty to pay for his health insurance out-of-pocket.

Frank, now retired, paid for all of his expenses (including his health insurance) from his hard-earned personal savings. Over time, the rising price of his health insurance cost him thousands of dollars. Until one day, it became too much. At it’s peak his Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance plan cost Frank over $500 a month.

After becoming uninsured, Frank searched for a solution.

Unfortunately for Frank, without enough work credits he could not get social security benefits or Medicare. It looked like he only had one option, a full-priced Qualified Health Plan – that cost almost has much as his private insurance.

It wasn’t until Frank began working with a patient advocate that he learned his veteran status could help him pay for his health care. “I had no idea. Nobody never told me nothing like that,” he explained. U.S. veterans are entitled to lifetime comprehensive health benefits. Fearing our complicated and expensive health care system, Frank fell through the cracks. He thought it better to pay for insurance even if it depleted his life savings than go without. All the while a simple solution was veiled in the complexity of navigating the system.

Frank took action; he submitted an application to the Department of Veterans Affairs for free health coverage.  It took a while to get processed – there was a problem on the VA website and other technical issues — but Frank stayed on top of it. Eventually a determination letter arrived, saying Frank was eligible for full VA health benefits.

Frank can now obtain free medical care at the VA NY Harbor Health Care System. When he needs medication, he has to pay only $5, $8, or $11 per prescription, depending on the type of drug. Frank now saves over $6,400 per year in premiums alone.