$100 For An ER Visit?

February 5, 2016

The House Veterans Affairs Committee (HVAC) heard from veteran service organizations and the VA on plans to integrate community care programs for enrolled veterans.

Panel Chairman Dan Benishek (R - Mich.), a physician, noted that there are seven community care programs sponsored by the VA. He termed the VA plan to consolidate the programs “bare bones” and expressed concern over the lack of detail in it.

Under the Choice Act, all enrolled veterans get a card to access health care outside of the VA, provided they meet certain distance or time requirements.

Chairman Benishek specifically cited MOAA's input and agreed that veterans' access to care should be driven by clinical need, not administrative requirements.

VA officials presented a broad outline of their plan to coordinate and integrate care. Community appointments have increased by 36 percent in the past year. The VA supports opening urgent care to veterans and clarifying policies on access to emergency care.

But the VA proposed charging veterans a $50 copay for an urgent care visit and $100 for an emergency room visit. Ranking Member Julia Brownley (D - Calif.) asked for the rationale for the $100 ER copay.

Dr. Baligh Yehia, the lead VA witness, said emergency rooms are clogged with non-emergency care. He said the VA was working on expanding same-day care primary care and using other measures like nurse advice lines to deal with urgent and emergency care.

MOAA strongly supports expanding veterans' access to urgent care and emergency room care but believes veterans seeking care for service-connected issues should not be burdened with copays.


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