VA prepares for major shift in veterans' health care

Laverne Higgins
June 8, 2019

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday will begin allowing a broad swath of its 9 million enrollees to seek medical care outside of traditional VA hospitals, the biggest shift in the US health care system since the passage of the Affordable Care Act almost a decade ago.

The VA's new Community Care Program includes implementing new portions of the MISSION Act of 2018, which stands for Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks.

The U.S. Department of Veterans said the Mission Act will improve the VA's ability to provide high-quality care at its facilities. All programs focus on non-VA health care opportunities for Veterans, with provisions allowing coverage for community providers.

Congress must now act to require that VCCP providers undergo the same specialized training for veteran care and hold the same credentials as VHA providers.

Butler VA Director John Lasell says help is available to determine if vets are eligible to participate in the program.

A new urgent care benefit is also created, whereby veterans can visit non-VA urgent care clinics at VA expense without prior approval.

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In 2014, the roll-out of VA Choice caused a sharp spike in workload at the Hampton VA Medical Center, one of the fastest growing veterans hospitals in the country. And we need to fill VHA's 43,000 vacancies-doctors, nurses, mental health clinicians, and other front-line support staff - in order to ensure that there is the necessary number of dedicated personnel wanting to make a career out of serving our nation's veterans. The Community Care program does not diminish the VA's obligation to directly provide care and continue improving its services, the agency said.

Veterans now have expanded access to medical care outside of Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

Empowers Veterans with increased access to community care. Will the VA, which often has trouble making timely payments to providers, keep up with the expected influx?

"We would have preferred the VA not use wait time in the Community Care eligibility criteria", he said.

In the final rule, the VA acknowledged receiving comments that the drive-time and wait-time access standards were not realistic. "We'll be working with the VA to address issues that arise, so that veterans aren't negatively impacted".

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