Tester to Health Net: You Are Failing Montana’s Veterans

Senator Holds VA Contractor Accountable to Do Right by Veterans and Taxpayers

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester, the Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, today slammed Health Net for failing Montana veterans and taxpayers, and demanded that the contractor for the Veterans Choice Program quickly respond to the concerns of Montana veterans and health care providers.

Tester’s letter to Health Net CEO Jay Gellert and VA Secretary Bob McDonald comes just two days after the Northern Montana Hospital in Havre became the latest Montana health care facility to opt out of the Choice Program because Health Net was unable to pay their bills to the hospital on time.

“I am beyond frustrated that I continue to hear many of the same unresolved issues from veterans, community providers and even VA employees in Montana,” Tester wrote. “Montana providers are declining to work directly with Health Net because they want to be paid in a timely manner and without the hassle of waiting on hold for hours to speak with someone about a billing concern.”

Tester contacted Gellert last year to express his concerns about Health Net’s inability to successfully administer the Choice Program in Montana, and asked him over a dozen specific questions on behalf of Montana veterans.

Since then, Health Net has hired an additional 300 employees to help veterans schedule medical appointments outside of the VA and speed up reimbursement claims from Montana hospitals and clinics. But despite these additional resources, Montana veterans and medical providers have told Tester they continue to wait on the phone for more than two hours to schedule an appointment or inquire about a payment from Health Net.

This frustration has led more than a dozen of Montana’s medical providers to opt-out of the Choice Program, including the state’s largest health care provider, Billings Clinic.

The intent of the Choice Program was to provide veterans with access to health care in their community instead of forcing them to drive long distances to a VA clinic.

“I request that both the VA and Health Net address the concerns outlined in this letter, and report back to me on what is being done to provide Montana veterans with the timely, high-quality health care that they need and have earned,” Tester added. “It is absolutely incumbent upon you to act to the extent of your authority to do right by veterans, and do right by taxpayers. To date, that has not happened.”

Because of Tester’s previous efforts holding Health Net accountable, veterans waiting longer than seven days to schedule an appointment through Health Net can now schedule that appointment directly through Fort Harrison and still see a medical provider in their own community. Montana is one of the few states that offer this option to veterans.

Veterans who have been waiting longer than seven days to schedule an appointment through the Choice Program can contact Fort Harrison at 406-447-7816.

Tester’s letter to Gellert and VA Secretary McDonald is available HERE.