V.A. Prepares for Major Shift in Veterans’ Health Care

“The V.A. certainly does not have the best track record implementing new I.T. systems,” said Representative Phil Roe of Tennessee, the top Republican on the House veterans committee. “It’s important to remember that while June 6 is a major milestone, many of the other shifts the law requires have either already been implemented or are still to come, and we will continue to provide oversight of all of these changes.”

Officials at the V.A. say they are confident things will go smoothly.

The agency has “conducted extensive user testing and training at sites across the nation,” said Curt Cashour, a department spokesman. He noted that all veterans enrolled in V.A. health care received mailings about the changes, which also are detailed online. He said that Mr. Wilkie and other department officials have done extensive outreach to veterans.

The V.A. is expected to have over 8,000 new urgent care clinics participating in that part of the program, he said. As of last month, the department had over 548,000 health care providers participating in its private care network, up from 474,765 in January 2018.

“We continue to work with our contracting partners to grow that number,” Mr. Cashour said.

Some veteran service organizations have complained that the V.A. has left them in the dark. “They can’t give straight answers about who is eligible,” said Rick Weidman, the executive director for policy and government affairs at Vietnam Veterans of America, which is threatening to file a lawsuit to slow the process down. “We should be delaying this until the V.A. gets its act together.”

There is no other analogous public health care system in the United States to the V.A. or this transition with services.

Medicare under Mr. Trump has increasingly shifted consumers into private plans, but that is a public payer system, not a health care system. “The V.A. has a number of characteristics worth studying for valuable lessons on health care in the private sector,” said David Blumenthal, the president of the Commonwealth fund.

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