Tester Calls on VA to Finalize an Exit Plan from Health Net

Senator: Veterans Access to Care Can't be Disrupted as VA Takes Over Managing Choice Program

(Bozeman, Mont.) – Ranking Member Jon Tester is calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs to have an exit plan in place so that veterans’ access to health care is not disrupted as Health Net’s contract to run the Choice Program ends.

The VA’s contract with Health Net, the government contractor that helps run the Choice Program, is set to expire September 30, 2018. After that, VA medical centers in states previously served by Health Net will take over scheduling veterans’ appointments with private providers, paying claims, and customer service until the new Veterans Community Care Program is established as a part of Tester’s VA MISSION Act.

Tester is calling on VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to make sure that this transition happens smoothly for veterans, community providers, and VA employees.

“Given the chaos and frustration that veterans, community providers, and VA staff working with Health Net endured throughout much of the Choice Program, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of ensuring that this contract close out process goes smoothly,” wrote Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Most importantly, there must be no disruptions in veterans’ access to community care, and VA must ensure that community providers are promptly paid for delivering that care.”

Tester’s VA MISSION Act, which scraps the Choice Program and streamlines VA community care programs into a new Veterans Community Care Program, was signed into law June 6, 2018. As the VA implements Tester’s law over the next year, it will stand up Community Care Networks of private providers ready to serve veterans and take over many of the responsibilities of running the new community care system.

While the VA and Health Net have already begun the transition of scheduling, claims processing, and customer service back to the VA, no official contract close out plan has been signed. Tester urged Wilkie to establish a formal, binding agreement to better hold both the VA and Health Net accountable for the transition.

“It is important that VA and Health Net reach written agreement on the close out plan and finalize the contract modification as soon as possible,” Tester wrote. “This would help give both parties assurance that they have accounted for all of the tasks that will be necessary to successfully transfer core functions from Health Net to VA.”

Tester earlier pushed for VA Montana to take back scheduling appointments for veterans in Montana and now the VA will follow suit nationwide by taking over Health Net’s scheduling responsibilities.

“I am concerned that VA medical center leaders have not had enough time to acquire the additional staff they will need to manage appointment scheduling, provider recruitment, claims processing, and veteran and provider customer service,” wrote Tester.

Tester also urged Wilkie to properly communicate upcoming changes to veterans and community providers.

As the VA implements Tester’s law, Tester has pushed the VA to be transparent and open with veterans and community providers about how the new health care system will work for them.

Tester’s letter is available to read HERE.