NU Online News Service, Oct. 7, 2004, 5:10 p.m. EDT

The U.S. House voted Thursday to improve access to civilian health benefits for activated members of the National Guard and Reserve.[@@]

Members moved to approve the health benefits bill, H.R. 4658, by a voice vote.

The bill would amend the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act to give activated members of the Guard and Reserve a chance to continue the health coverage offered by their civilian employers for at least 24 months. Today, activated service members can continue civilian health benefits for only 18 months.

Children and spouses of activated service members can get health coverage through the military’s TriCare health coverage program, but many activated service members prefer to stick with their civilian benefits so that they can keep the doctors they already use and avoid the red tape involved with moving into the TriCare system.

H.R. 4658 was sponsored by Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J.

Links to the text of the bill and more information about the bill are on the Web at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.r.04658: