Aug. 4—President Barack Obama on Thursday will sign provider-backed legislation to expand treatment options for veterans, according to an administration spokesman.

The $16.3 billion bill aims to increase veterans’ access to healthcare services following the discovery that Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities used a variety of misleading methods to give the false impression that veterans had shorter wait times for care.

The bill includes $10 billion to provide access to care at non-VA providers when delays hamper veterans’ care. Veterans who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility or who have to wait more than 30 days for a medical appointment can seek outside care.

The funding for non-VA-provided care is meant to be temporary and would end when funds are exhausted or three years after enactment, whichever occurs first.

The legislation drew the support of provider advocacy groups, including the American Hospital Association (AHA) and the American Medical Association, for the provisions easing access to care.

For instance, the AHA praised the inclusion of language allowing hospitals to contract directly with their local VA facilities rather than having to go through a managed care contractor. Many hospitals have “ongoing and cooperative relationships with their local VA facilities, which can be built upon to enable veterans to readily secure needed care,” according to an AHA letter to members of Congress who led the bill’s passage.

Provider Provisions Included

The bill requires negotiated payment rates—up to Medicare rates—for non-VA providers, as well as implementation of prompt-payment systems by non-VA providers. 

The bill also exempts non-VA providers from federal contractor or subcontractor obligations during its duration.

The measure provides $5 billion for the VA to recruit more physicians, nurses, and other healthcare staff to care for the surging number of veterans who have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The legislation came in response to a widening scandal involving delays in care at many VA facilities that have been linked to veterans’ deaths. For instance, a VA auditor’s report released in July found 110 VA facilities maintained secret waiting lists in an effort to hide the lengths of care delays at their facilities.

Publication Date: Monday, August 04, 2014