Bill Would Expand Health Care Access For Veterans
Republican Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson has proposed legislation to increase access to privatized medical coverage for American veterans paid for by the federal government.
Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, who chairs the committee, looks to accomplish this by way of expanding the existing Veterans Choice Program.
Isakson’s bill, coined the Veterans Choice Act of 2017, seeks to “Give all veterans who are eligible to receive care at the VA the option of seeking care outside of the VA from a community care provider that best meets their needs.”
The proposal expands the existing Veterans Choice Program, which only allows veterans who live more than 40 miles from the nearest VA medical center or who face a wait time of 30 days or longer access to care outside the VA.
Under the proposed Veterans Choice Act of 2017, those restrictions would be lifted so that any veteran, along with his or her doctor, can consider all available health care options to help ensure they receive the best and most efficient care.
The list of eligible health care providers is extensive, including Medicare providers, the Department of Defense, the Indian Health Service, and “any federally qualified health center or others deemed fit by the secretary of the VA.”
If passed, the bill would fulfill one of President Donald Trump’s most prominent campaign promises to “Make sure every veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the Veterans Administration or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.”
Among other proposed changes, the bill aims to streamline enrollment, payment and scheduling for both veterans and providers participating in the Veterans Choice Program.
It further seeks to give the secretary greater oversight over the implementation of the program to ensure success, building on Trump’s VA Reform Bill passed into law in June.
The bill also requires the VA to submit a strategic plan to Congress that demonstrates a feasible five-year forecast for health capacity and capabilities to ensure veteran demand for proper health care can be met.
Isakson remarked during the bill’s first Senate committee hearing last week that “Providing veterans with the option to receive care in the community is simply leveraging all available healthcare options to provide the best and most efficient car to our nation’s veterans.”