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Some big changes may be in store for Veterans Affairs (VA) patients and providers, as Congress moves toward approval of an expansion of care options for VA patients and the VA announces that it's ending a relationship with Health Net Federal, a major contractor for the VA Choice program.

The most far-reaching decision is the advancement of a bill named the VA Mission Act. That bill, already approved in the US House of Representatives and likely to pass in the US Senate, would commit $52 billion to the creation of a new program that would overhaul VA Choice, the program created in 2014 to increase access and reduce wait times for VA patients by allowing greater use of non-VA providers.

The VA Choice program faced criticism that it has fallen short of its aims, and is set to run out of money in late May or early June 2018. If signed into law, the Mission Act would provide funding while the program is retooled. The Trump administration has already indicated support for the legislation.

Once up and running, the new program would allow veterans to access private sector care in instances in which long travel times, long wait times, or a VA facility's poor service prevent the patient from receiving adequate care. The program would also allow up to 2 walk-in visits per year at non-VA clinics, according to a report in the Military Times.

In another move related to VA Choice, VA announced that it will be allowing its contract with Health Net Federal to expire on September 30, 2018. The company is the contractor for VA Choice services in regions that include all or portions of 37 states

VA has not announced a new contractor for the regions now served by Health Net, nor has it provided any guidance on what providers currently contracted with Health Net should be doing to prepare for the change. For its part, Health Net issued a statement that it will "remain focused on program performance improvements" and "will continue to work collaboratively with VA to ensure providers receive prompt and timely payments during this period of transition." The company stated that it will provide updates on the transition on its Veterans Affairs webpage.

ATPA regulatory affairs staff will continue to monitor the progress of the legislation and transition from Health Net, and will share updates through PT in Motion News and other resources.


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