VA health care: Choice program out, MISSION Act in

The Senate on Wednesday passed a long-awaited $55 billion bill that includes an extension of the Veterans Choice Program, but eventually replaces it.

The Choice program allows veterans to access care outside of the Veterans Affairs health system under certain conditions. The bill—Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act— will replace the program, which was expected to run out of funds at the end of the month.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), said, "Veterans deserve a health care system that works for them, regardless of where they live, what medical condition they are struggling with, and whatever their means. Our bill delivers a health care system that is worthy of their service."

MISSION will introduce a single community care program that allows veterans and their doctors to choose where to receive health care and also authorizes VA to pay for care at higher rates in highly rural areas and implement value-based reimbursement models to promote a higher quality of care.

The bill also expands the VA stipend for family caregivers, currently only available for post-9/11 vets, and includes a review of the VA's aging infrastructure, which calls for shutting down ailing and underused facilities.

“With today’s Senate action, veterans are one step closer to the care they deserve…” Roe said in a statement. “The VA MISSION Act is the result of over a year of hearings, roundtables and bipartisan negotiations, and I couldn’t be prouder of the final product,” he added.

The new program is expected to be implemented one year after the bill is enacted, and the Choice program will end next May.

The president is expected to sign the bill.

Review the bill here.

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Edward A. Zurndorfer Certified Financial Planner
Mike Causey Columnist
Tom Fox VP for Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service
Mathew B. Tully Legal Analyst

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