Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson told Congress this week that “opening the floodgates” to allow veterans to seek private healthcare solutions when they cannot receive timely care from the VA would cause the agency “challenges.”
Gibson’s comments came before a Senate panel and as House and Senate conferees are looking to complete and agreement on a veterans benefits bill that would address the VA’s recent scheduling crisis and wait times scandal.
One of the proposals favored by many on both sides of the aisle is a provision forcing the VA, for a period of two years, to make healthcare from the private sector available to veterans if they have wait times for VA care longer than 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic, according to Stars & Stripes.
The VA’s issue with the proposal deals with timely access to patient records from external healthcare facilities, Gibson told the Senate panel.
“One of the biggest challenges we have with purchased care in the community is maintaining continuity of care for the veteran,” he said. “The ability to get medical record information back and forth is a vital part of this, [to] ensure the quality of care. I will tell you, if the floodgates open, it will present the department with challenges.”
The VA would prefer to add billions of dollars to its annual budget and more doctors to address the wait times crisis. The agency has a plan to add 10,000 employees to its medical staff, including 1,500 physicians, over the next three years. The VA has asked Congress for $17.6 billion for its plan.