Published: Sat, June 09, 2018
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

President Trump Signs Bill Expanding Private Care for Veterans

President Trump Signs Bill Expanding Private Care for Veterans

President Donald Trump has approved a bill that will allow veterans to seek healthcare services from the private sector if a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital fails to accommodate to their needs, the Washington Examiner reported Wednesday.

"Why aren't (veterans) going outside (the VA) to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill", Trump asked at the bill-signing ceremony. But it could escalate costs, and some lawmakers warn this could put the VA at risk of budget shortfalls next year.

VA doctors consult the state-based PDMPs before prescribing opioids to veterans, some of whom have suffered injuries while fighting wars overseas.

The act establishes standards for veterans to consult with the private sector for "timely and effective care".

The Act will provide $5.2 billion to extend the Veterans Choice Program for one year while it's being overhauled.

"Many, many veterans and their families as a result of this bill will certainly live a much, much better life", said Haynes. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Without passage of the veterans funding bill soon, lawmakers and veterans groups warn that Veterans Affairs will be forced to make hard trade-offs about which programs should be funded.

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"If we implement this bill as Congress has written it, this legislation will be transformational to the VA", Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, said.

"Without subjecting the program to any budgetary constraint, there is no incentive to continue to serve veterans with innovative, streamlined and efficient quality of care", according a Trump administration memo obtained by The Washington Post.

The president was joined by Mike Pence, his nominee to lead the VA Robert Wilkie, and acting VA Secretary Peter O'Rourke.

O'Rourke also commended Trump, the chairmen and members of the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and other entities responsible for the passage of the bill.

The $51 billion measure builds on legislation passed in 2014 in response to a scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. Now only veterans who endure waits of at least 30 days - not nine days - for an appointment at a VA facility are eligible to receive care from private doctors at government expense. "As I've seen firsthand with my own health-care from the VA, there are many great doctors who go above and beyond for our veterans, but it's also clear that there are many areas where the VA needs to seriously step up its level of service".

In previous months, critics and other healthcare stakeholders have called for improvements to the Veterans Choice Program, citing enrollment errors, exceptionally long wait times, and a convoluted referral process that hinders patient access to care.

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