Health Care for Veterans

High quality health care is a vital public health promise to America’s veterans. While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is the primary health care provider for this population, investor-owned hospitals have a history of working with the VA to provide care to veterans to help achieve this commitment to our nation’s heroes.

In response to recent media reports of systemic organization issues and long wait times for veterans, Congress took action to ensure that eligible veterans can access quality medical care on a timely basis through agreements between the VA and healthcare providers that are not part of the VA medical system. The Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 was signed by the President on August 7, 2014. The VA issued an implementing interim final rule on November 5, 2014.

The FAH supports VA agreements with non-VA providers to help ensure that eligible veterans can access the medical care they need and deserve. The FAH is committed to assisting those who have served our country to receive quality and timely health care. Our hospitals are proud to continue serving veterans and are poised to do so under the new law to increase critical access to care for America’s heroes.

An important component of this collaboration is the development of proper policies and protocols for a smooth transition for veterans as they receive VA health care from non-VA providers, including prompt payment for services. Additionally, for purposes of the new law, it is important that providers are not considered federal contractors, as this would unnecessarily subject them to broad-based affirmative action and other requirements on a short-term basis. Such requirements would be counterproductive to providing immediate care to veterans.

The law is consistent with the FAH’s advocacy efforts, and adopted certain key provisions intended to promote access to care for eligible veterans, including:

  • Eligible veterans are allowed to receive care from non-VA entities that are Medicare participating, over 3 years or the date when $10 billion appropriated into a “Veterans Choice Fund” to pay for such care is exhausted, whichever occurs first.
  • The VA must explicitly abide by the “Federal Prompt Payment Act” and pay non-VA entities promptly (within 30 days) or face interest penalties.
  • Non-VA entities would be paid a negotiated rate under an agreement with the VA, with rates capped at Medicare payment amounts. Rates can be higher than Medicare in “highly rural areas,” i.e., counties with fewer than seven individuals residing in that county per square mile.
  • Providing care to veterans under the bill would not make the non-VA entity a federal contractor.

The FAH continues its advocacy efforts to assist member hospitals in their provision of care to America’s veterans and will provide support for any issues regarding hospital agreements with the VA to furnish hospital services to patients in non-VA hospitals under this new law.