Sunday, January 31, 2016

Congress Didn't Plan Veterans Choice Program

Program to hasten veterans’ care poorly implemented, Maine advocates say
Portland Press Herald
January 30, 2016
Health Net Inc. is one of the program managers cited in the report. It’s also the company charged with managing the Veterans Choice program in Maine and New England.
A report released Thursday shows that a 2014 program designed to reduce wait times has left half the qualifying veterans without medical appointments.
AUGUSTA — Advocates for Maine veterans said Friday that the rush to implement a $10 billion federal program designed to shorten wait times for veterans seeking medical care is contributing to delayed care, unbooked doctor appointments and billing errors.

“It was doomed for failure before it even hit the streets,” said Gary Laweryson, a retired Marine from Waldoboro who is chairman of the Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee.

There have been a number of reports in Maine and other states that the 2014 Veterans Choice health program is not working as intended. Those complaints, once anecdotal, were validated Thursday in a report produced by the VA Maine Healthcare System showing that only half of the 4,300 veterans who applied for care under the 2014 Veterans Choice program had received appointments since July.

The report was presented to veterans advocates and staff for the state’s congressional delegation during an unannounced meeting held at the VA’s Togus campus. The meeting has prompted urgent calls from Maine’s delegation to reform the program.

However, veterans advocates say the program was hastily conceived and carelessly implemented. Those assertions are supported by a U.S. Veterans Health Administration Office of Inspector General report issued in September.
Amedeo Lauria, a service officer for the American Legion at Togus, said veterans are having a difficult time just getting a call returned from a hotline provided by the choice program. On Thursday, Health Net said a call center in Tampa, Florida, was set up for 500 employees. Only 130 have been hired.
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