Bill Aims to Expand Veterans’ Access to Nursing Care

A bill recently reintroduced in the U.S. Senate aims to make skilled nursing services more readily available for veterans of the military.

Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) on July 20 reintroduced the Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act (S. 1611). The legislation would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into provider agreements with long-term care (LTC) providers such as skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) without requiring them to submit to a different set of rules.

As it currently stands, the VA can enter into contracts with non-VA providers so long as they follow certain regulations and reporting requirements. But many long-term care facilities don’t admit VA patients because of those rules: For example, just 14 of North Dakota’s 80 nursing homes currently contract with the VA, Hoeven explained in a press release.

“In contrast, when contracting with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), LTC facilities are not subject to the same regulations,” Hoeven continued. “The legislation would make LTC requirements the same whether they contract with the VA or CMS. This gives veterans more options to access LTC services closer to their homes, families and loved ones.”

Hoeven, who is a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Committee, also secured the inclusion of a provision in the Fiscal Year 2018 VA funding bill that would show Congressional support for allowing non-VA long-term care facilities to enter into provider agreements with the VA.

So far, the proposed bill has won praise from industry groups including the American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents long-term care providers.

“This crucial legislation ensures that America’s veterans have access to extended care services from providers who are closer to veterans’ homes and community support structures,” said Mark Parkinson, AHCA’s president and CEO, in a statement. “These men and women selflessly served our country and it is important we provide them the best care possible.”

The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks or months ahead.

Written by Tim Regan

Tim Regan

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