Senator Blackburn, Congressman Biggs Reintroduce Bill To Grant Veterans More Health Care Options
May 18, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Congressman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) reintroduced the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act. This legislation would allow veterans enrolled in the VA health system to immediately seek care in their local communities.
Currently, veterans must meet certain eligibility criteria, and the VA must approve the provider referral to seek care in non-VA facilities under the Veterans Community Care Program. The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would remove the VA from the referral process to allow veterans to seek care where it is most convenient.
U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) joined Senator Blackburn as Senate cosponsors.
“Tennessee is home to over 400,000 veterans, who deserve the very best care our nation has to offer and the freedom to choose the care that best fits their needs. We should eliminate the layers of bureaucracy and expedite access to Community Care for all veterans. The Veterans Health Care Freedom Act would create a three-year pilot program within the VA that allows veterans to schedule necessary appointments at non-VA medical facilities and gives them access to information about eligibility, cost sharing, treatments, and providers – so that they are empowered to make informed decisions,” said Senator Blackburn.
“Veterans across the state of South Dakota have made incredible sacrifices so that we can be free,” said Senator Rounds. “Our veterans deserve the freedom to choose where they receive care, whether it’s at the VA Clinic in Wagner or through a local community provider in Mobridge. I am pleased to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation to improve veterans’ access to the health care services they have earned.”
“There is nothing more important than taking care of our veterans who bravely served our country,” said Senator Cramer. “Cutting through the red tape gives veterans access to better, more efficient care without facing unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.”
“Our veterans should be able to see a doctor as quickly and easily as possible,” said Senator Tuberville. “Streamlining the VA community care program is a commonsense way we can increase access to care and cut through red tape. By eliminating the community care referral process altogether, this bill accomplishes that goal and makes life easier for those who have served.”
“Our nation’s veterans make many sacrifices in their fight to protect our freedoms and we must uphold the promise we made to provide them quality health care. Often, veterans experience significant delays and unnecessary bureaucracy when seeking care through the VA health care system. My bill frees them of those challenges, opening access to community health care options to those who need and want them. I will always have our veterans’ backs and urge my colleagues to move this legislation forward,” said Congressman Biggs.
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’ access 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 health care outside of their corresponding VISN and at non-VA facilities.
- Require 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.
- Make the pilot program permanent nationwide four years after enactment of the Veterans Health Care Freedom Act.
- Require 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.
- Fund the pilot program using appropriations otherwise made available to the Veterans Health Administration.
Click here for bill text.