Hoeven Continues Push to Make More Long-Term Care, Private Health Care Services Available to Veterans

Senator Successfully Resolved CMS Survey, Compliance Issues for LTC Providers, Helps Ensure Quality Care

BISMARCK, N.D. – During a tour and roundtable at the Baptist Health Care Center in Bismarck today, Senator John Hoeven stressed the importance of improving access to local long-term care (LTC) services for veterans. The senator highlighted the Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, legislation he sponsored with Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The Hoeven bill, which was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in December, would open more LTC services for veterans closer to their homes. The measure was also included in the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, legislation Hoeven helped introduce with several of his colleagues earlier this month.

“We continue working to improve the Veterans Choice Program and expand access to health care services for our veterans, including extended care,” Hoeven said. “Whether a veteran needs a medical appointment, surgery or long-term care, they shouldn’t have to travel across the state to access these services. Further, our veterans should be able to be with family and friends in their retirement, not forced to relocate away from their homes. By allowing the VA to enter into provider agreements, just like we do for Medicare and Medicaid, we can help ensure veterans can access extended care services in their home communities close to their loved ones.”

Veterans Choice Improvement Act of 2016

The Veterans Choice Improvement Act makes needed changes and reforms to the Veterans Choice Program to address bureaucratic delays, hassles and confusion that veterans have experienced attempting to get health care. The bill simplifies the process for all non-VA care programs by consolidating redundant and overlapping programs into the Veterans Choice Program and creating one funding source. This will streamline the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care. 

Hoeven worked to include his LTC measure in the act, which allows the VA to enter into provider agreements with qualified health care and extended care facilities. This will enable more local care, including nursing home and in-home care providers, to accept veteran patients without having to comply with burdensome and oftentimes expensive federal contracting requirements.

A summary of the legislation is available here.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) Survey Procedures

Following the tour, Shelly Peterson, President of the North Dakota Long Term Care Association, and the center’s administrators thanked Senator Hoeven for his work to resolve a recent change in CMS guidance for its survey process, which was undermining nursing facilities’ ability to address deficiencies in a timely manner. Specifically, CMS had directed the North Dakota Health Department, which conducts the surveys, to no longer provide preliminary findings, called F-tags, during the end of the review, but rather, only release the F-tags at a supervisory meeting in Bismarck some weeks later.

However, the preliminary findings were valuable in facilitating communication between the survey teams and the facilities. Due to the change in guidance, the nursing facilities were unable to identify and correct possible problems areas early, resulting in prolonged deficiencies in care. To correct this situation, Senator Hoeven called on CMS Acting Administration Andy Slavitt in February to clarify the policy and ensure that the F-tags are shared with service providers during the exit conference portion of the surveys, which the agency did earlier this month. This will help nursing homes and other extended care facilities provide quality care to their clients.