U.S. SENATE —Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) today introduced legislation to improve health care services for America’s veterans.
Daines’ bill, the Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016 makes major changes to the Veterans Choice Program, which was created in 2014 to allow veterans to get needed health care outside of the VA system, and creates a permanent program with advance funding. It makes changes and reforms to address the bureaucratic delays, hassles and confusion that veterans continue to experience in attempting to get health care.
“Problems with the Choice Act is the number one concern I hear from veterans in Montana,” Daines stated. “We need to ensure that the men and women who risked their lives for our country have every option available to receive the best care and treatment. Our country has a duty to uphold the promises it made to our veterans and this bill takes bold steps toward improving the entire Choice Act Program to ensure that happens.”
The Veterans Choice Improvement Act addresses three key problems that have come to light since the creation of the Veterans Choice Program in 2014:
Systemic confusion with accessing health care outside the VA: The VA has the legal authority to send veterans outside of the VA to receive care, but there are multiple programs, contracts and laws that confuse everyone involved. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act simplifies the process by consolidating redundant and overlapping programs into the Veterans Choice Program and creating one funding source for all non-VA care programs. This will streamline and simplify the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care.
Medical providers fear working with the VA, which is jeopardizing the ability of veterans to get the care they need: VA has an antiquated, slow, and inefficient claims processing system that often makes it very difficult for private medical providers to work with the VA. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act requires that the VA will create a modern, secure and efficient claims submission process with industry best practices. It gives strict timelines for reimbursement to providers and includes measures to make sure that the VA meets those timelines.
The VA does not use local medical providers to help veterans, which means veterans have to drive for hours to receive care, even for simple things like getting eyeglasses. The Veterans Choice Improvement Act allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with local providers, which will help thousands of veterans who live in areas with health care shortages to receive the care they need much more easily and conveniently.
The bill is also sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). John Hoeven (R-ND), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Boozman (R-AR) and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
A summary of the legislation is available here.
The text of the legislation is available here.