Update: House & Senate Approve Veterans Health Care Choice Act
Yesterday, the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve H.R. 3236, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act. Update 2:16 p.m. on July 30: The Senate approved the legislation today, and it is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.
Among its provisions, the bill would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use $3.3 billion from the Veterans Choice Fund to pay for care provided to veterans by non-VA providers between May 1 and October 1, 2015 under the VA’s community care programs.
H.R. 3236 also would require the VA to develop a plan to consolidate all non-VA programs into a single “Veterans Choice Program” and to submit a report on the plan to Congress by November 1, 2015. Among its provisions, the plan must include the structuring of the billing and reimbursement process; a description of the reimbursement rate to be paid; and an explanation of the processes to be used to ensure that the Secretary will fully comply with the federal Prompt Payment Act.
Further, H.R. 3236 would make a number of changes to the current Veterans Choice Program, including: eliminating the requirement that a veteran be enrolled in the VA health care system by Aug. 1, 2014 in order to participate; allowing the VA to expand the number of non-VA providers that may offer medical services; waiving the program’s wait-time eligibility threshold if clinically necessary for the veteran; and allowing veterans residing within 40 driving miles of a VA medical facility to use non-VA services if the VA facility does not have a full-time physician on staff.
M. Todd Tuten is a Senior Policy Advisor at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP.