VA healthcare bill aims to give vets more access to private long-term care services

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Providers cheered the inclusion of long-term care and post-acute agreements in a major overhaul of veteran health care passed by the Senate this week.

The VA Mission Act consolidates several seven Veterans Affairs health programs into one and makes it easier for covered patients to receive care outside of government-run facilities when those centers have long wait lists or do not provide needed services. Among the changes are provider agreements allowing veterans to use a broader network of private long-term care settings.

“VA provider agreements are an essential step to ensuring veterans have access to long-term and post-acute care,” the American Health Care Association said in a statement late Wednesday. “This legislation will help remove some of the existing red tape that may prevent providers from being able to provide care, broadening options for veterans who need both nursing center care and home and community-based services.”

Once signed by President Trump, the measure will create the Veterans Community Care Program and a new claims reimbursement process in 2019. The administration had pushed for passage by Memorial Day.

The Ambulatory Surgery Center Association, which often provides orthopedic procedures and pain management therapy for seniors, praised the bill and its 30-45 day payment timeline for private providers.

“Unfortunately, challenges within the current non-VA provider programs cause significant delays in reimbursement to providers,” the association said.

The act passed the Senate with a vote of 92 to 5, but some Democrats expressed concern that the new program would prove too costly or be used for private access even when the VA is capable of delivering appropriate treatment.