WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) introduced the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act which would take the VA out of the community care referral process. This legislation would create a three-year pilot program that allows veterans to find and schedule necessary appointments at medical facilities in the VA’s network.
“We owe it to our veterans to provide them with timely access to quality care,” said Senator Blackburn. “In Tennessee, I have heard from countless veterans about their frustrations with how the VA is running the community care program. My legislation will cut out the middle man and make it easier for veterans to see a doctor. It’s far past time we eliminate the bureaucracy and allow veterans direct access to health care in the free market.”
“Streamlining the VA community care program is a commonsense way to increase access to care and decrease red tape,” said Senator Tuberville. “Alabama’s veterans should be able to see a doctor as quickly and easily as possible, and by eliminating the community care referral process altogether, this bill accomplishes that goal and makes life easier for those who have honorably served.”
"It’s tragic veterans still don’t have the same options as most Americans regarding where and when they can access health care. The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would ensure veterans have choice by holding the VA accountable to help them access care rather than act as a bureaucratic barrier. Shouldn’t our nation’s heroes have the option to choose the health care provider that best meets their needs? Senator Blackburn’s bill would make health care choice a reality for veterans, not an exception,” said Russ Duerstine, Concerned Veterans for America Deputy Director.
“As a senior official at VA when the MISSION Act took effect, I saw firsthand how difficult implementation could be even when the staff was committed to veterans’ choice,” said Jason Beardsley, executive director of the Association of the United States Navy. “Today, we see disturbing signs that VA’s commitment to ‘choice’ is waning. Veterans need smart legislation to protect veterans’ choice – not a bureaucracy. That’s how to put veterans truly in charge of their health care decisions.”
The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would:
- Create a three-year pilot program within the VA Center for Innovation Care and Payment to improve veterans' accessibility to health care in the free market;
- Require that the pilot program be carried out in at least four Veteran Integrated Service Networks (VISN);
- Improve access to free market health care by allowing veterans to access primary, specialty, and mental care outside of their corresponding VISN and at non-VA facilities;
- Requires the VA to give veterans information about eligibility, cost sharing, treatments, and providers so that they are able to make informed decisions with respect to selection of primary and specialty care providers and other available treatments;
- Makes the pilot program permanent nationwide four years after enactment of the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act;
- Requires the VA to submit reports to House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees on the implementation and results of the pilot program, as well as the final design;
- Gives the VA the option to prescribe regulations in consultation with the House and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committees; and
- Funds the pilot program using appropriations otherwise made available to the Veterans Health Administration.