The VA’s Private Care Program Gave Companies Billions and Vets Longer Waits

Source: Isaac Arnsdorf, ProPublica, and Jon Greenberg, ProPublica and PolitiFact, December 18, 2018

Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers. Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist. The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly $2 billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.

Related:

Lawmakers Worry New VA Private Care Program Could Be a ‘Train Wreck’
Source: Eric Katz, Government Executive, December 19, 2018

Lawmakers from both parties cautioned the Veterans Affairs Department to tread carefully in enacting a law President Trump signed last year to give more veterans access to private sector health care, suggesting the current trajectory could sabotage the entire program. VA is actively seeking to address potential pitfalls through its negotiations with potential contractors that will make up the “community care network,” Secretary Robert Wilkie told a joint, bicameral congressional committee on Wednesday. Criticisms came from an array of sources, most of whom voted to approve the MISSION Act last year…..

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie owes veterans, Americans answers on secret Mar-a-Lago ‘council’
Source: Anne Harkavy and Will Fischer, Courier Express, Dec 19, 2018

When Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie testifies before a joint congressional hearing on VA efforts to modernize health care access and services for veterans, we urge him to do what this administration has refused to do to date and answer a question of critical concern: Is a shadow council of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf buddies still holding meetings and exerting unlawful influence over the makeup of VA leadership and policy decisions aimed at privatizing VA health care services?
We know that prior to his confirmation, then Acting Secretary Wilkie flew to the president’s private Florida golf estate to meet with the Mar-a-Lago “council” — Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, Palm Beach concierge doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and financial consultant Marc Sherman, all members of the president’s private club — and thanked the group for creating a “template” that set a new direction for the agency.

We also know that, despite having no government or U.S. military experience, these three men met more than two dozen times, behind closed doors, to use their prominent position of influence to try to steer VA projects. For example, the VA tasked them with reviewing a $10 billion contract for the largest health information technology project in American history. And at least one project they worked on was one in which a member of the trio may have had a personal interest…..

Privatizing the VA: Billions for contractors, longer waits for veterans
Source: ELIZABETH HOWE, ConnectingVets.com, DECEMBER 19, 2018 – 8:29 AM

In 2014, the government started referring more and more veterans to private health care in an effort to mitigate the backlogs and dysfunctions of the VA’s health care programs. ProPublica investigated what has happened in the four years since then — and it looks like it’s all bad for veterans.

Privatizing VA health care was meant to result in better, easier-to-access health care for veterans.  Former President Barak Obama and President Donald Trump supported this effort. Since 2014, 1.9 million veterans have received private health care through Veterans Choice.

However, consistent with patterns at the VA, the program was riddled with flaws. Average wait times for medical care were longer, veterans in Idaho were referred to doctors in New York, an appointment with a neurologist was made for a veteran in need of a urologist — the list goes on. Many of these flaws can be traced back to the program’s expedited launch…..