Wednesday, 26 April, 2017

Trump signs bill extending health care choices for veterans

Trump to sign bill extending veterans' health care program VA Suspends Caregiver Benefit Revocations (VA)
Clarence Schmidt | 21 April, 2017, 04:58

President Trump signed a bill Wednesday that gives veterans access to private medical care.

Extension of the "Veterans Choice" program could worry Democrats and other critics that Trump and Shulkin are inching toward sending some of the $65.6 billion the department spends annually on medical care to corporations and private businesses. The program was scheduled to expire on August 7 with almost $1 billion left over.

At the signing of S. 544, the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act, President Trump said, "This new law is a good start, but there is still much work to do".

The 2014 initiative ensures that USA veterans do not have to wait long periods of time or drive long distances to get their healthcare needs from a provider and can opt instead to receive healthcare from a local provider. Still, on Tuesday the VA announced it was seeking cutting-edge treatments from the healthcare industry for brain injuries, mental health problems and chronic pain.

The President said next week there will be a news conference to talk about veterans' issues.

"The legislation that Trump signed ‶eliminates the August 2017 expiration, streamlines the process between the VA and community providers, and reduces the burden on veterans and the community providers who serve them", said Republican Kansas Sen. The bill, which passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate, eliminates a sunset provision in the VA Choice Program and allows continued care until funds for the program are used.

Patients can use the choice program if they lived more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or can't get an appointment within the span of 30 days. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.

Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done.

In a March report, the Government Accountability Office said veterans in the Choice program still face long wait times, mostly because cases must be referred to private contractors for scheduling. The Trump administration has promised to work on "full-scale reform" of the Department of Veterans Affairs. This is a great day to celebrate, not only what Veterans have contributed to the country, but how we're making things better for them.

Past year a congressionally mandated panel of experts found the Choice program was inefficient, but recommended establishing a community-based healthcare system that would include private doctors.

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