partlycloudy
Tuesday May 22nd, 2018 3:50PM

House OKs expansion of private care at VA, fix budget crisis

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Wednesday to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the Veterans Affairs health system, a major shift aimed at reducing wait times and improving medical care despite the concerns of some Democrats who cast it as a risky step toward dismantling the struggling agency.

The plan seeks to fulfill President Donald Trump's promise to expand private care to veterans whenever they feel unhappy with VA health care.

The long-awaited bill would change how veterans receive their medical treatment by allowing them to go to a private physician when they felt government-run VA medical centers couldn't provide the care they needed, with the approval of a VA health provider. Veterans could access private care when they endured lengthy wait times, or the treatment was not what they had expected.

The VA would decide in many cases when a veteran sees an outside doctor, based on conditions it sets that determine what is inadequate care.

Lawmakers passed the bill by a 347-70 vote, with the program to be implemented later next year as the VA works to add private doctors to its network of outside referrals.

The wide-ranging plan would avert a catastrophic shutdown of the VA's troubled Choice private-sector program, which would receive $5 billion to continue operating for another year before it is made a longer-term fixture at the VA. The program will run out of money as early as May 31, causing disruptions in care.

The $51 billion bill has the support of nearly 40 organizations, including The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. The program could be expanded based on veterans' demand for private services and when VA care is deemed inadequate. The VA would be able to determine how quickly the program grows.

The legislation now goes to the Senate, where lawmakers are seeking a vote before their Memorial Day break. Trump has said he is ready to sign the bill.

Rep. Phil Roe, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, praised the measure as keeping "our promise to give veterans more choice in their health care."

The program could face escalating costs due to growing demand from veterans seeking the convenience of seeing private physicians. Some House Democrats warn the VA won't be able to handle the costs of the newly combined "community care" program that includes Choice and other VA programs of outside care, putting the VA at risk of unexpected budget shortfalls next year.

Rep. Tim Walz, the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, cautioned that outsourcing more care to the private sector would lead to devastating cuts to VA hospitals, which many veterans see as best-suited to treat battlefield injury such as traumatic brain injury. "I am deeply concerned about the long-term health and stability of VA health care," he said.

The bill builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. It comes as the VA is without a permanent leader after David Shulkin was ousted as VA secretary in March. Trump has yet to name a new secretary after his first nominee, Ronny Jackson, withdrew last month.

The legislation aims to steer more patients to the private sector to relieve pressure at VA hospitals, thus improving veterans care at VA facilities and with private providers alike. Patients could also access private walk-in clinics, such as MinuteClinics, to treat minor illnesses or injury if they used VA health care in the last two years.

The bill would create a presidentially appointed commission to review the closure of underperforming VA facilities, which House Democrats opposed when the plan was drafted in March. Democrats sought restrictions on the commission but were rebuffed by House Republicans and the White House.

It would also expand a VA caregivers program to cover families of veterans of all eras, not just the families of veterans who were seriously injured in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

Veterans would be able to access private care when VA does not offer the services they need or a veteran and his VA health provider agree it is best to receive care with a private doctor. It would loosen Choice's restrictions that limit outside care only when a veteran must wait 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility.

"This is a great victory for those want to see the VA reformed and fixed," said Dan Caldwell, executive director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America. "This will hopefully ensure veterans aren't trapped in failing VA hospitals."

Currently, more than 30 percent of VA appointments are in the private sector.

___

Follow Hope Yen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/hopeyen1

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2018 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump disclosure of Cohen payment raises new legal questions
President Donald Trump reveals in his financial disclosure that he reimbursed personal attorney Michael Cohen as much as $250,000 for unspecified "expenses"
9:04PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Liberal tilt in some primaries a sign of Democratic fervor
Democratic voters are choosing decidedly liberal candidates in some primary elections for House races viewed as key to the congressional majority
8:58PM ( 10 minutes ago )
Inmate executed for San Antonio lovers' lane killing
A Texas inmate who insisted he wasn't involved in a San Antonio "lovers' lane" killing in 2003 has been executed for the slaying.
8:54PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump rails against California for its immigration policies
President Donald Trump is hammering California for its so-called sanctuary immigration policies
7:32PM ( 1 hour ago )
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee
Republicans are pushing for a quick confirmation vote for President Donald Trump's CIA nominee Gina Haspel
7:24PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP analysis shows how Bill Gates influences education policy
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates saw an opportunity with a new federal education law that has widespread repercussions on American classrooms
7:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Pennsylvania governor gets to know imposing new ticket mate
Pennsylvania's governor is getting to know his new running mate better, a day after Democrats voted to replace the incumbent lieutenant governor with the mayor of an economically struggling steel mill town
6:11PM ( 2 hours ago )
North Carolina teachers demand better funding in large march
Teachers demanding better pay and more resources filled the streets of North Carolina's capital city Wednesday with loud chants and the color red
6:09PM ( 2 hours ago )
Unapologetic Trump Jr.: Not troubled that I met with Russian
Donald Trump Jr. told a Senate panel that he didn't think there was anything wrong with meeting a Russian lawyer who promised dirt on Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 election
6:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
FDA approves 1st nonopioid drug to ease withdrawal symptoms
FDA approves 1st nonopioid treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms
6:21PM ( 2 hours ago )
Judge tosses California law allowing life-ending drugs
Advocates say the terminally ill may suffer unnecessarily after a judge threw out a California law that allows adults to obtain a prescription for life-ending drugs
7:53AM ( 13 hours ago )
UK central banker apologizes for 'menopausal' remark
One of Britain's top central bankers has apologized for using sexist language when saying the British economy is entering a "menopausal" moment.
7:40AM ( 13 hours ago )
AP Health
Car data: Utah Tesla driver had hands off wheel before crash
Data from a Tesla electric vehicle confirms that a Utah driver had engaged the car's semi-autonomous Autopilot functions before she slammed into the back of a firetruck last week
7:56PM ( 1 hour ago )
Former Southeastern Conference Commissioner Slive dies at 77
Mike Slive, the former Southeastern Conference commissioner who guided the league through a period of unprecedented success and prosperity, has died
7:24PM ( 1 hour ago )
Wynn Resorts points to changes after founder's resignation
The board of directors and CEO of Wynn Resorts on Wednesday sought to show shareholders they are working to strengthen the casino operator's corporate culture and moving it forward without its founder
7:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
US stocks on course to rebound in afternoon trade
U.S. stocks are up in late-afternoon trading, led by gains in big technology names, health care companies and retailers
3:08PM ( 6 hours ago )
US stocks veer higher in afternoon trade; oil slides
U.S. stocks are up in afternoon trading, led by gains in big technology names, health care companies and retailers
1:58PM ( 7 hours ago )
Syrian military seizes key swath of land in country's center
Syria's military says it has restored government control over a large area in central Syria, securing a power station, a refinery and a cement factory after uprooting the armed opposition
1:23PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Trump's prescription to reduce drug prices takes small steps
Trump says long-awaited plan for reducing drug prices is most sweeping in history, but it takes small steps.
6:20AM ( 4 days ago )
Few teeth in Trump's prescription to reduce drug prices
Trump says long-awaited plan for reducing drug prices is most sweeping in history
10:41PM ( 4 days ago )
The Latest: Trump unveils plan to reduce drug prices
President Donald Trump has unveiled his long-promised plan to bring down drug prices
7:59PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Business - Health Care
Trump disclosure of Cohen payment raises new legal questions
President Donald Trump reveals in his financial disclosure that he reimbursed personal attorney Michael Cohen as much as $250,000 for unspecified "expenses"
9:04PM ( 4 minutes ago )
Inmate executed for San Antonio lovers' lane killing
A Texas inmate who insisted he wasn't involved in a San Antonio "lovers' lane" killing in 2003 has been executed for the slaying.
8:54PM ( 14 minutes ago )
British cyber expert's attorney says FBI deceived him
Attorneys for a British cybersecurity expert credited with stopping a worldwide computer virus last year told a federal judge Wednesday that the FBI agents who arrested him for allegedly creating malware used deception when interrogating him
8:52PM ( 16 minutes ago )
House OKs expansion of private care at VA, budget crisis fix
House votes to give veterans more freedom to see doctors outside the Veterans Affairs health system
8:33PM ( 35 minutes ago )
Michigan State agrees to pay $500M to settle Nassar claims
Michigan State agrees to pay $500M to settle abuse claims against sports doctor
8:32PM ( 36 minutes ago )