Washington, D.C.—Good morning, ProviderNation. It’s Veterans’ Day. You can be stoic about it, if you like, or even mournfully hostile to the day’s enterprise, but let us agree that the duty laid upon us by the mighty and humane 16th president—“to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan”—is one (subject to the occasional, and ambivalent, toggling between masculine and feminine pronouns) that each generation knows it can neither shirk nor ever discharge fully.
With that in mind, provider advocates can take some cheer in the fact that legislation that would make it easier for them to offer top-quality care to the nation’s vets is slowly working its way to becoming law. Senate bill 2000, the Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act, has already had two readings and is now in the Committee on Veterans Affairs.
The bill would make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to sign provider agreements with long term and post-acute care centers without all the baggage of making the care centers full-on government contractors.
Champions In Both Houses
Its champions in the Senate are John Hoeven, the North Dakota Republican, and Joe Machin, D-W.Va.
“North Dakota is a very large state, which can make it a real hardship for our veterans in rural areas to get basic services like physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, and other necessary medical procedures,” Hoeven said, in introducing the bill. “That’s why we’re working very hard to make it easier for our veterans to receive services and extended care near where they live so that they can be close to their family and friends. This is important to our veterans and their families and will help us to better keep our nation’s promise to care for the men and women who have served our country so well.”
A similar bill, could be up for a hearing on the House side as early as next Wednesday. (The champions there are Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind. and Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. Gabbard is herself a combat vet.)
“As the VA suffers from a crisis of confidence and attempts to reform itself, Congress needs to look at ways to ensure our veterans have access to the care they deserve, especially for those in rural areas where a VA facility is a few hours’ drive away,” Walorski tells me. “I am currently working on legislation that would expand provider agreements to include hospital care and other medical services. Provider agreements are important because they will guarantee those the ability to receive the necessary care in the comfort of their home town, close to friends and family.”
Providers Fit And Ready For Duty
The fine folks at AHCA/NCAL have been pushing for the provider agreements for awhile, and, without resting on any laurels, are feeling rather hopeful that their members will be reporting for duty, stat.
“Once we can enter into the agreements, the number of providers serving veterans will increase in most markets, expanding the options among veterans for nursing center care and home- and community-based services,” says Dana Halvorson, AHCA’s own perpetual motion machine. “It is simply time we get VA provider agreements across the finish line so those most in need can receive quality care close to home. It is the least we can do for those that have served our nation so bravely.”