Changes to VA Choice program could strengthen access

Proposed changes to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Choice program would improve access to long-term care services for veterans closer to home. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) introduced the Long-Term Care and Health Services Act legislation last year, which would reduce burdensome contracting by allowing the VA to enter into agreements with non-VA providers for extended care services such as long-term care facilities or in-home care services. Currently, VA providers have to meet an entirely different set of standards than those for Medicaid and Medicare.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin publicly supports Sen. Hoeven’s legislation and has pledged to work with him to initiate changes proposed in the bill prior to reintroduction and passage. The proposed legislation would empower local extended care services providers to deliver health care services that veterans need, benefiting member Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) and home health providers. The provider agreement status (vs. the third-party contractor Healthnet) was previously granted critical access hospitals and rural health clinics under the original CHOICE Act, but extended care providers have not been included. Sen. Hoeven’s efforts would change that.