While the VA MISSION Act expanded community care options to many veterans, the VA has skirted the law to keep veterans out of the community and in the VA’s health care system.
But the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would change that, giving veterans the ability to use their VA health benefits at facilities that best meet their needs.
What is the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act?
The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act, introduced by Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Andy Biggs, aims to enhance veterans’ access to health care services. It would do this primarily by expanding community care options, first through a smaller pilot program, then to all veterans who use the VA for care.
Access to community care has been an issue for veterans since the program was first introduced.
Though the VA MISSION Act and Congress’ intent in passing the law are clear — veterans that meet the criteria for community care need access — the VA has put up roadblocks to keep veterans in the VA system.
The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would build on the VA MISSION Act and limit the VA’s ability to make internal decisions about where veterans can seek their care.
Giving veterans greater freedom in their health care is what the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act is all about.
What’s in the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act?
The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would allow all veterans enrolled in VA health care to choose providers through the Veterans Community Care Program.
This new approach would operate similarly to how urgent care benefits work under the VA MISSION Act. For urgent care services, veterans can go to any urgent care facility within the VA’s network.
The same would be true for all medical care under this legislation.
The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act includes:
- Full choice– Under the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act, there would be no question of whether you’re eligible for community care. The answer is always yes. All veterans who use the VA for their health benefits would have access to medical care from any in-network provider without needing to seek pre-approval from the VA.
- Starting off with a pilot program – The VA would be required to create a small pilot program for full choice access to care. This three-year program would allow veterans to access primary, mental health, and specialty care from any community care participant who is in the VA’s network. Four years after the program’s enactment, full choice would roll out to all veterans who use the VA.
- Care coordination – Right now, care coordination is happening exclusively through the VA, even if the veteran is eligible for and utilizing community care. But the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would allow veterans in the pilot program to choose a community provider to coordinate their care. It would also require the VA to set up a system to aid in that care coordination. This step is important because it eliminates much of the VA’s ability to act as a gatekeeper to care.
Why is the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act important?
Veterans earned access to care; it’s as plain and simple as that.
We as a country don’t just owe them what they were promised but should also prioritize giving them access to the best care they can find. If that’s at the VA, great. If it’s not, that’s great too.
The veteran should be in full control of where he or she uses health care benefits, just like anyone with non-VA health coverage.
We’ve seen too many examples of veterans left waiting too long for appointments, receiving substandard care, and trying to get into community care while the VA stands in their way.
Veterans should have more than one option when it comes to their care. The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act is the best way to ensure veterans have that freedom.
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