Hoeven Pressing for VA Pilot Program in Fargo, Allowing Veterans to Schedule Private Care Through Local VA Medical Center

Senator Brings VA, Health Net Officials to North Dakota to Hear Firsthand from Veterans, Health Care Providers

FARGO, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today hosted a roundtable in Fargo with Gene Migliaccio, Deputy Chief Business Officer for Purchased Care at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Veterans Health Administration, and Matthew Ruest, Vice President of Government Services Field Operations for Health Net, to advance a new pilot program in the state that will allow veterans to schedule health care appointments with non-VA private providers directly through the Fargo VA Medical Center.

Hoeven brought the officials to North Dakota so they could hear firsthand from local veterans and health care providers about the scheduling and service reimbursement issues arising from the use of a third party administrator contracted by the Veterans Choice Program.

“We’ve heard from veterans throughout the state who are struggling to make appointments through Health Net, seriously delaying their ability to access the timely care they need,” Hoeven said. “I appreciate Dr. Migliaccio for taking the time to hear from our veterans, and I look forward to working with the VA to establish a pilot project here that will help resolve these issues and empower the local VA Medical Center to schedule non-VA care for our veterans.”

The pilot program would be an administrative remedy to address the bureaucratic delays and confusion that veterans have experienced in North Dakota when trying to schedule appointments. Separately, Hoeven and his colleagues have introduced the Veterans Choice Improvement Act, which would address the scheduling and reimbursement challenges on a national level. A summary of the legislation is available here.

The Veterans Choice Improvement Act would make needed reforms to the Veterans Choice Program to simplify and streamline the process for veterans who need to go outside of the VA to receive care from private providers. The bill achieves two important objectives:

  • Consolidates redundant and overlapping programs into a single program, the Veterans Choice Program, and
  • Streamlines the process by creating one funding source for all non-VA care programs 

Hoeven worked to include another provision in the Veterans Choice Improvement Act that would facilitate greater health care services for veterans in both rural and urban communities by allowing the VA to enter into provider agreements with qualified hospital, medical, and extended care providers. The provision is similar to his Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, which was approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in December. The legislation would enable skilled nursing homes and in-home care providers to accept veteran patients without having to comply with burdensome and oftentimes expensive federal contracting requirements.