On May 23, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that supports our veterans in getting their health care from community providers. The bill easily cleared the House and is expected to be signed into law by President Trump before Memorial Day.
The $52 billion reform bill adds funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice program that was slated to run out of money by the end of May. The Congressional Budget Office projects that 640,000 more veterans nationwide will seek services from private providers outside the VA each year due to reforms in the bill.
Key provisions of the bill include:
- Consolidates multiple VA community care programs into one permanent Veterans Community Care Program.
- Increases access by removing current 30-day wait or 40-mile drive eligibility requirements. Based on the needs of veterans, the VA will develop new criteria to define how veterans may access community providers outside the VA.
- Establishes Medicare rates for participating providers and higher rates for highly rural providers. The VA must develop a provider network with this provision.
- Requires prompt payments to participating providers
- Establishes a pilot VA residency program and a loan repayment program for residents training in high-demand specialties, areas with a high density of veterans, or where there is a physician shortage