This past week, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to increase available health care to U.S. Veterans. The bill will expand long-term and post-acute care (LT/PAC) options. Known as S2373, the VA Mission Act of 2018, it includes a provision authorizing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to enter into provider agreements with extended care providers. This would include nursing care centers. The bill, having passed both Houses of Congress, is expected to be signed into law by the President. Once enacted, the law will create the Veterans Community Care Program and a newly developed claims reimbursement process ready for use in 2019.
The new law will address the disparity between Medicare Parts A and B or Medicaid providers who have not been considered to be federal contractors. Meanwhile, providers that currently have VA patients (sort of “grandfathered in”) are considered to be a federal contractor and as such comply with statues such as the Service Contract Act and can offer care to veterans. The federal office overseeing the compliance standards for these existing federal contractors has reporting requirements and regulations beyond those required by Medicare and Medicaid rules. The proposed law will clean up the language and requirements and increase availability of long-term and post-acute veteran care options to providers who were not previously federally contracted.
“VA provider agreements are an essential step to ensuring veterans have access to long-term and post-acute care,” the American Health Care Association said in a statement late Wednesday. “This legislation will help remove some of the existing red tape that may prevent providers from being able to provide care, broadening options for veterans who need both nursing center care and home and community-based services.” (https://www.mcknights.com/news/va-healthcare-bill-aims-to-give-vets-more-access-to-private-long-term-care-services/article/768658/ )
Some key provisions of the proposed law will increase access to long-term care options for veterans near their loved ones in their home communities. It will expand caregiver benefits for veterans of all eras and not just those who are post 9/11. It will remove the somewhat arbitrary 30day/40mile rule which is a barrier to veterans receiving local care, often requiring them to travel long distances to receive VA care.
Before all of these changes can be implemented on a wide scale (some as late as 2019) The Veterans Choice Program fund (www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/programs/veterans/VCP/index.asp) will receive $5.2 billion in funding and will function more effectively in time with the newly created standards for prompt payment to community care providers. It is proposed that to create ease of veteran access, a currently enrolled vet who has used the VA health care system in the last two years is automatically granted walk-in access to community clinics. It will also seek to remove or suspend any providers from the VA practice who do not treat veterans in the community, which in turn will improve the recruiting and commitment of VA health care professionals. There will be a strengthening of the rules and processes for prescribing opioids to veterans in order to responsibly treat veterans and reduce rates of addictions. Finally, and very importantly, it will require the VA to schedule medical appointments in a timely manner. This can save veterans frustration, and even their lives, as well as reduce VA spending over time by catching health issues early on when medical treatment is usually most effective and cost efficient.
The overhaul of veteran health care will create multiple layers of health care improvements for veterans, their families/caregivers, and health care providers. It is a long overdue attempt to rectify a system that has been overly complicated. By ensuring veterans can receive care more local to their communities and by supporting a larger pool of providers to accomplish the task, the VA Mission Act of 2018, once signed into law, can bring about real and substantive change.
To fully understand how these changes will impact you as a veteran, or perhaps your loved who is a veteran, it is important to get proper counsel. Contact our office today at 443-470-3599 to schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.