Proposal Would Open Up Access to Non-VA Physicians for Veterans

December 19, 2012 04:45 pm News Staff

The AAFP is expressing strong support for a proposed rule( from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that would make it easier for veterans to access care from community-based physicians and other health care professionals who are not affiliated with the VA.

[American flag w/stethoscope and dog tags]

Currently, the VA contracts outside the department for certain types of inpatient and outpatient care when VA facilities are unable to provide services. However, the VA only allows a veteran to be treated by a non-VA provider when the treatment begins during a hospitalization, which is a restriction that severely limits a veteran's access to non-VA physicians and other services.

Now, the VA is proposing to eliminate the restriction, thereby expanding a veteran's eligibility for non-VA care by community-based physicians, other health care professionals and facilities.

"The AAFP enthusiastically supports this step since it improves health care access for veterans and will allow the VA to better utilize resources," said AAFP Board Chair Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in a Dec. 12 letter(2 page PDF) to the VA's director of regulations policy and management.

In the proposed rule, the VA said the health care industry increasingly has sought to reduce barriers to care by loosening restrictions on the provision of care, an assessment shared by the AAFP, according to Stream.

"While the VA continues to expand health care delivery options for veterans, the AAFP recognizes that the VA, like public and private insurers, is unable to provide all possible medical services at all VA-operated venues of care," Stream said.

Stream also urged the VA to "identify and remove additional barriers that inhibit the way community-based physicians are able to treat their patients who also happen to be veterans."

"Specifically, the AAFP urges the VA to reexamine a burdensome regulatory requirement that prescriptions for veterans must be written by a VA-affiliated health care professional for the veteran to obtain the prescription at the VA's discounted prices," he said.