2019 Will be the Year of VA Health Care Rules

Hypothetical veteran application for health benefits. Document is totally fictitious and created by photographer.

One of the things President Trump ran his presidential campaign on, was changing how the VA takes care of our veterans. It seems that 2019 will be the year of new VA health care rules. In 2018, community care rules for medical appointments were a focal point for Veterans Affairs officials. At that time, the VA Mission Act was approved by Congress with details set to be released this year.

The VA Mission Act is a $52 billion veterans legislative package with results that wont be seen for years, but will net positive results for all members of the military. Under the new legislation the private sector will play a bigger role in caring for our veterans. Johnny Isakson, (R-GA), the Committee Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs said the Act will also make our health care system for veterans accountable to the most important people, our veterans. Sharing rare bipartisan support Senator John Tester, (D-Mont.), called the legislation “a tremendous benefit to veterans and insurance against efforts to dismantle VA medical care.

Over the last half decade, Patient-Centered Community Care and Veterans Choice Programs, operated by TriWest and Health Net Federal Services were the two primary private sector outside care programs. In October 2018, TriWest Health Care Alliance became the sole provider of nationwide operations for the VA’s community care programs. This year, and due to the VA Mission Act, the Patient-Centered Community Care and Veterans Choice Program will be replaced with a new community care program.

As its subtitle suggests, the VA Mission Act is “Developing An Integrated High-Performing Network…Establishing Community Care Programs”. The Act seeks to provide a single program to furnish hospital care, medical services, and extended care services to covered veterans through specified health care providers. Medical appointments will be scheduled in a timely manner, as well as a system to acquire medical records from non-Departmental providers. Another aim of the legislation is to  eliminate poor care due to errors or delays by the VA or its contractors. There will also be changes to the rates paid for hospital care, medical services, and extended care services, in that rates paid “may not exceed the rate paid by the United States to a provider of services”.

James Cheef