Tester Throws Support Behind VA Proposal to Cut Out-of-Pocket Health Care Costs for Veterans

Chairman: “Cost should not be a deterrent from ensuring veterans receive the care that is needed and recommended by their VA provider.”

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester is lending his support to a recent proposal made by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to eliminate copayments for outpatient medical care and reduce prescription copayments for veterans at high risk for suicide. The Chairman weighed in as part of VA’s public comment period that solicits feedback to guide the roll-out of this proposed program.

“I strongly believe all veterans at risk of suicide should be given access to the care they need, without any cost-sharing,” the Chairman wrote. “I support VA’s proposed rule to amend its regulations that govern copayments for outpatient medical care and medications for veterans determined to be at high risk for suicide…Cost should not be a deterrent from ensuring veterans receive the care that is needed and recommended by their VA provider.”

In his public comment, the Senator proposed several action items to be taken by VA to ensure the successful implementation of this proposed regulation, including:

  • Incorporating calls and communications to the Veterans Crisis Line as part of the “high risk” determination;
  • Reviewing the findings from a forthcoming Government Accountability Office report on how the Department handles patients at high risk for suicide to inform any improvements to this program;
  • Developing an outreach, education, and training plan for how community care providers can report back a recommended “high risk” determination for a veteran in his or her care, and considering a plan so these notes are expediently added to a veteran’s health record and shared with their primary care provider; and
  • Ensuring the carryover of high-risk flags on veterans’ health records during the rollout out of the electronic health record modernization project.

The Senator continued, “I commend the Department for this thoughtful approach to decreasing veterans’ barriers to mental health care and bolstering suicide prevention efforts. I strongly support these proposed regulations and you have my commitment to ensuring VA has the resources it needs to make these changes.”

As Chairman, Tester is leading the push to bolster critical mental health resources for veterans in crisis through his bipartisan Revising and Expediting Actions for the Crisis Hotline (REACH) for Veterans Act and Post-9/11 Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Last Congress, he successfully championed the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, a groundbreaking law to widen and improve veterans’ access to lifesaving VA mental health care and services.

A copy of the Senator’s comment can be found HERE.