Hoeven-Cosponsored Legislation to Extend Veterans Choice Program Signed Into Law
WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today announced that legislation he cosponsored and Congress passed earlier this month to extend the Veterans Choice Program, which was set to expire in August, has been signed into law by the president. Hoeven was invited to the White House for the bill signing, but was unable to attend due to obligations in North Dakota.
“Our legislation to extend the Veterans Choice Program is part of our efforts to expand veterans’ access to health care options closer to home, and I welcome the president signing this bill into law,” said Hoeven. “Our veterans deserve high-quality care, that’s why we worked to implement the Veterans Care Coordination Initiative at the Fargo VA, which has helped ensure timely appointments for veterans in our state. We continue working to build on this progress and improve health care for veterans across the country.
The legislation allows the Choice Program to continue until its original funding is fully expended, ensuring veterans can benefit from the $950 million in appropriated funding for the program that would have otherwise gone unused. Further, the bill allows the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to serve as the primary payer under the Choice Program, alleviating the difficulties providers have faced in receiving payment for services, and improves the sharing of medical records between the VA and community providers, which will reduce wait times for appointments and strengthen care coordination.
Hoeven continues his efforts to build on the success of the Veterans Care Coordination initiative at the Fargo VA, which he secured and worked to implement with federal and local officials, including veteran service officers and VA administrators. VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin recently accepted the senator’s invitation to visit North Dakota and see firsthand local efforts to improve care for veterans, including the initiative. Hoeven is promoting the initiative as a model to help address delays in scheduling appointments through the Veterans Choice Program across the nation.
The Veterans Care Coordination initiative grew out of a series of meetings and listening roundtables Hoeven held with veterans around the state in both large and small communities. It allows veterans seeking care through the Choice Program to coordinate all of their health care needs through the Fargo VA Medical Center rather than Health Net, a third party contractor headquartered in California. As a result, the average time from initial call to a scheduled community appointment decreased from nearly 24 days in April to four and a half days in December.
In addition, the program arranges to have a Health Net staff member at the Fargo VA so providers can work with the Fargo VA to improve provider reimbursements and reduce denials of veterans’ claims.
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