VA Plan Expands Private-sector Health Care

Washington Report

(Oct. 17, 2017) Veterans could more easily seek medical care from private-sector providers under a plan presented to Congress Monday by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans Coordinated Access & Rewarding Experiences (Vets CARE) Act expands on the current Choice program created in 2014 in the wake of a scandal involving long wait times at VA facilities.

Vets CARE would eliminate the distance and waiting-period restrictions of Choice and allow any veteran who has waited longer than “a clinically acceptable period” to visit a provider in the private sector, according to Military Times, which reported on the proposal.

The proposal included no cost estimates. It also did not predict the number of appointments that would be shifted to the private sector. The publication pointed out that the proposal could revive concern among some veterans, veteran advocates and lawmakers about the eventual privatization of VA care.

Under the VA plan, a veteran could also receive care away from a VA facility when “the veteran and the veteran’s primary care provider agree that furnishing care and services through a non-department entity or provider would be in the best medical interest of the veteran.”

In a statement, VA Secretary David Shulkin said, “We want veterans to work with their VA physicians to make informed decisions that are best for their clinical needs, whether in the VA or in the community. This bill does just that, while strengthening VA services at the same time.”

The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee will likely discuss the plan next week at a scheduled hearing that will focus on the committee’s own VA reform proposals, the newspaper reported. A committee spokeswoman said HVAC staff is reviewing the VA offering ahead of the hearing.