Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Science | By Carlton Santiago

Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

Trump extends private-sector health care program for vets

The sunshine state was well represented at the White House Wednesday as President Trump signed a bill extending and improving the Veterans Choice Act which allows veterans to seek medical care outside the VA system under certain conditions.

Some veterans have criticized the Choice Program for being complex and confusing, and while many congressmen and veterans groups applauded Trump's signing of the bill, they did so with the caveat that the program improves.

The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care.

Trump released the following statement following the bill's signing: "The veterans have poured out their sweat and blood and tears for this country for so long, and it's time that they're recognized, and it's time that we now take care of them, and take care of them properly".

"You got it? The doctor of their choice", he repeated for emphasis.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday moved a step closer to fulfilling his campaign promise to reform the troubled Veterans Affairs department, but some veterans groups are concerned that the administration may be working toward privatizing their healthcare.

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Extension of the "Veterans Choice" program could worry Democrats and other critics that Trump and Shulkin are inching toward sending some of the $65.6 billion the department spends annually on medical care to corporations and private businesses. It's created to provide services while the veterans administration develops a longer term plan.

The President said next week there will be a news conference to talk about veterans' issues.

The new bill - the Veterans Choice Improvement Act - addressed a major complaint of veterans service organizations by directing the VA to cover co-pays and deductibles directly for private care rather than reimbursing veterans for paying up front.

More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.

(Shulkin) "This is a good day for Veterans". At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and "customer service", something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.

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