Home Health Health Care Panel weighs closing all VA health care — vets' groups raise conflict of interest – Military Times

Panel weighs closing all VA health care — vets' groups raise conflict of interest – Military Times

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A blue-ribbon panel created to guage the Veterans Affairs health system is weighing a radical proposal to remove all VA medical facilities and outpatient amenities within the subsequent 20 years and transition 9 million veterans to the personal sector for health care.

A 34-page “strawman doc” floated last week by seven of 15 members of the VA Commission on Care calls for giving all veterans immediate access to private health services and closing VA health facilities gradually, starting with those that are obsolete or underutilized in a process similar to a base realignment and closure.

VA eventually would become “primarily a payer,” much like Medicare, under the proposal.

Of the seven commission members whose names appear on the document, three are from the private sector and one is a board member of a veterans advocacy group that has proposed its own plan to expand privatized health care for veterans.

Commissioner David Blom, president and CEO of the OhioHealth system, is credited as author of the report, with input from the six other members. Blom wrote that the health care needs of veterans are not being met under the current system and that the goal is to “meet the wants of each veteran.”

“The commission finds the current VA health care system is seriously broken, and because of the breadth and depth of the shortfalls, there is no efficient path to repair it,” Blom and other commission members wrote in the report, created as part of an overall effort to explore VA health reform options.

Under the proposal, veterans would be able to receive care at any provider that accepts VA payments or Medicare. Doctors would be reimbursed at rates 5 percent to 10 percent higher than Medicare rates to encourage them to participate.

The proposal, introduced at the commission’s March meeting, earned immediate condemnation from some veterans organizations as well as VA officials, who say the VA health system performs significantly better on outpatient measures than civilian, Medicare and Medicaid health maintenance organizations.

Eight veterans organizations — including Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — sent a letter Thursday to Commission Chairwoman Nancy Schlichting denouncing the document.

“We are greatly alarmed by the proposed strawman document that was developed and drafted outside the open commission process … without the input or even knowledge of the other commissioners,” wrote organization officials. “What is most unsettling concerning the ‘proposed strawman doc’ is the utter lack of consideration that veterans would need to enhance and increase the VA health care system.”

VA Undersecretary of Health Dr. David Shulkin told commissioners March 23 that VA already is undergoing a “bold transformation” to improve care at in-house health facilities and streamline the Veterans Choice program to improve services.

He added that the VA has an “understanding of the results of army publicity, PTSD, polytrauma care, prosthetics and different varieties of care unequalled by another health care system” and said any reform recommendations must not impede the “contract VA has with veterans” to provide state-of-the-art care.

Commission chairwoman Nancy Schlichting, CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, told syndicated columnist Tom Philpott that she asked Blom to create the document. She said that by definition, “it is to be evaluated, criticized and thought of as half of our dialogue.”

Disabled American Veterans executive director Garry Augustine said the veterans services organizations that oppose the plan sense that the commissioners who developed this particular proposal also believe it.

“In this regard, there was quite a bit of dialogue main as much as this doc that makes us consider the individuals who put this collectively are very critical about pushing this agenda,” Augustine stated throughout an interview Friday.

American Legion officers questioned the motives of the commissioners whose names are on the doc, noting medical business executives, in a launch March 24.

“Members of a congressionally appointed Commission on Care … are reportedly pushing lawmakers in Washington to support long-term plans to accelerate privatization of VA health care,” American Legion officers wrote.

A last report from the fee is due by June. The fee was created by the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to make suggestions on reorganizing the Veterans Health Administration and delivering health care to veterans within the subsequent 20 years.

The report suggestions echo some proposals set forth by veterans advocacy group Concerned Veterans For America in a VA health reform plan, “Fixing Veterans Health Care,” launched final yr. That plan requires consolidating VA medical amenities underneath a nonprofit group chartered by the federal government and offering care for veterans within the personal sector by means of a authorities-sponsored health care program just like the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan.

CVA Vice President of Legislative and Political Action Dan Caldwell stated Friday that the straw man document — which he characterised as an “incomplete proposal designed to generate debate” — is necessary to any dialogue of VHA reform.

“We are joyful to see that extra individuals want to increase Choice and provides the Veterans Health Administration the instruments it wants to raised serve our veterans,” Caldwell stated. “Our proposal makes clear that we don’t mandate shutting down VA amenities.”

Augustine said the straw man devalues a health system that serves the unique needs of veterans.

“We look ahead to working with the fee to return to consensus with good concepts that may assist resolve the problems that VA has. We are usually not making an attempt to be obstructionist; we try to work with the fee. But we’re lifeless-set towards getting rid of the VA,” Augustine stated.

Patricia Kime covers army and veterans health care and drugs for Military Times. She could be reached at [email protected]
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