From the office of Congressman Andy Harris:
Congressman Andy Harris, M.D., a Navy veteran and physician who worked in both the military and veteran health systems, has written and released a white paper that outlines his innovative proposal to provide veterans with health care outside of the broken Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
Under the Harris plan, veterans would be able to opt out of the VA Health System entirely, and instead get care through a private health insurance plan, the Veterans’ Choice Plan—a plan comparable to what federal employees are provided through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
“Veterans who want to continue to get care through the VHA should be able to do so; those who don’t should be provided private insurance just like federal employees have,” explained Rep. Harris. “The Veterans’ Choice Plan would allow them to see any doctor they want, go to hospitals that are close to home, and receive care from top professionals.”
Congressman Harris will send the reform plan to the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for its review later this week.
“Our veterans put their lives on the line for our nation; they at least deserve access to the same health care services as those who work at the VHA,” added Rep. Harris.
The full text of the white paper can be found here:
Giving Veterans a Choice Outside of the Veterans Health Administration
Proposed by Congressman Andy Harris, M.D.
Veterans should have the option to get a health care plan that is as good as the health care plans for VA employees taking care of them.
The falsification of records by VA employees in places like Phoenix to cover up long wait times shows the fundamental flaws with the current structure of the Veterans Health Administration. There have already been 23 veteran deaths directly linked to delays in VHA care, and delays in treatment have been a factor in more than 100 deaths at VHA centers since 2001. While outrage is appropriately focused on those who falsified records to cover up long wait times, the fundamental problems that led to long wait times in the first place must also be addressed.
In rural parts of the country, like the Eastern Shore of Maryland, which is in my district, veterans often have no choice but to drive several hours to a full-service VHA-run hospital, or to see a physician specialist. This is in stark contrast to all other Americans with health insurance who can go to physicians and hospitals just up the street or in the next town over. The current system is fundamentally flawed, and without giving veterans another choice, the problems will only continue.
Recommendations to allow veterans only to be seen in the private health sector on an ad hoc basis are not good enough solutions.
Reforming the System to Give Veterans a Choice:
· Veterans will be able to opt out of the VA Health system entirely, and instead get care through a private health insurance plan, called the Veterans’ Choice Plan. Eligibility for veterans will be phased in gradually, beginning with new enrollees and “priority group 1” veterans.
· Veterans eligible for Veterans’ Choice will be able to choose any plan offered in their areas through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).
· The federal government will cover the entire cost of the premium. Currently, federal employees have to pay, on average, about 28 percent of the total cost of the premium, but for veterans the government will pay up to the entire premium, depending on their priority ranking.
· For priority group 1 and low-income veterans who may not be able to afford co-pays, the federal government will offer a system to cover those costs as well.
· The Office of Management and Budget will create a system similar to the one current federal employees use to sign up for the plan of their choice—and ensure veterans have access to it.
The VHA served 5.6 million patients in 2012, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the VA spent $7,297 per patient that year. A standard Blue Cross Blue Shield nationwide plan offered through the FEHBP costs $7,397, including both the government subsidy and the portion individuals usually pay. Transitioning to FEHBP for those veterans who choose that option would likely be budget-neutral at worst, and possibly even reduce veteran health expenditures.