Tester Pushes Health Net to Address Concerns of Montana Veterans

Senator Demands More Accountability and Better Results from Veteran Choice Program’s Third Party Administrator

(Great Falls, Mont.)-Senator Jon Tester last week pushed leaders of Health Net-the Veterans’ Choice Program’s third party provider in Montana-to answer questions and address concerns he is hearing from Montana veterans.

In a letter to Health Net CEO, Jay Gellert, Tester shared his frustrations with the company’s inability to administer the Veterans’ Choice Program and asked over a dozen specific questions on behalf of Montana veterans. Over the past year, Montana veterans have been increasingly contacting Tester to relay their difficult encounters with the Choice program, their long wait times for care, and the uncertainty they experience when trying to schedule a medical appointment through Health Net.

“Despite repeated promises from Health Net, I continue to hear many of the same complaints Montana veterans had when Health Net first took responsibility for the Choice Program,” Tester wrote. “You have no freedom to fail here. Montana veterans rely upon the Choice Program, and its ineffectiveness is causing them to lose faith and confidence in the VA and the commitment this country made to them when they voluntarily signed up to protect and serve us all.”

Tester asked Gellert to confirm that Health Net has hired 300 call center employees and two referral specialists at Fort Harrison to increase the response time for veterans scheduling a medical appointment through the Choice Program.

Thanks to Tester, Montana is one of only five states that allow the VA to schedule appointments directly with community providers using Choice Program funds if Health Net is unable to schedule that appointment through Choice within seven days. Tester asked Gellert to identify exactly how many medical appointments the VA has scheduled with local providers because Health Net wasn’t able to meet that seven day threshold.

Tester also pushed Gellert to identify how many Montana health care providers have been waiting more than 30 days to receive a reimbursement claim.

And ultimately, Tester asked whether Health Net would voluntarily reimburse taxpayers for the company’s inability to fulfil their contractual commitments and failure to schedule appointments in a timely manner.

Last month, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee passed provisions from Tester’s legislation to fix the Choice Program and provide the VA with the flexibility to bypass Health Net and work directly with community providers to deliver more timely access to care.

Earlier this year, Tester authored the Improving Veterans Access to Care in the Community Act, which will consolidate the VA’s multiple community care programs into a single initiative that is easier for veterans and local health providers to navigate.

Tester will share Health Net’s responses with Montana veterans.

A copy of Tester’s letter to Health Net is available HERE.