Rural Native Vets Benefit if VA Picks Up More Medical Travel Costs

It's deplorable that veterans lack adequate health care services. Help in one important way may be coming, though.

Following recent recomendations by the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may soon reimburse veterans for the travel expenses for receiving care at a VA medical center outside their region as an alternative to paying for local but more expensive private providers. This would be a help for Native veterans, many of whom live in rural areas with few local private providers and without easy access to expensive travel to far-away VA medical facilities to get the care they need.

The VA is considering the rule changes to try and curb the rising costs associated with sending veterans to private providers, which the General Accountability Office says climbed from $3 billion in 2008 to nearly $4.5 billion last year. The rule change would only authorize reimbursement if it is more cost-effective but equal to what they’d get by being referred to a private medical provider closer to home.

The VA, in its response to the findings, reports, said its business office is already at work building a national wait-time indicator for measuring the performance of fee-based providers, and expects to have it completed in September.

For more information, including the full GAO report, "VA HEALTH CARE: Management and Oversight of Fee Basis Care Need Improvement," click here.

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