By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,585)
“Veterans don’t always get through on the phone when they call Health Net and even when they do, the people who service our state aren’t in Maine,” wrote US Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, in an email today. “And providers have been waiting too long for payments. I want to make sure patients have access to care and are not locked up in a bureaucracy.”
Pingree told a top VA official today that the independent contractor running the Veterans Choice Program isn’t meeting the needs of veterans and should be replaced. In a phone call with Dr. David Shulkin, Under Secretary for Health in the VA., Pingree said veterans are waiting too long for appointments, doctors are waiting too long for payments and that Health Net, the company administering the Program in this part of the country, is to blame.
Pingree talked to Shulkin in advance of his visit to Maine next week, when he will visit VA facilities in Augusta, Bangor and Caribou.
The Veterans Choice Program was designed to shorten wait times for appointments with the VA, by giving veterans the option to visit a private doctor if they live 40 miles or more from a VA Hospital or if they have waited 30 days or more for care.
There are two independent contractors that administer Veterans Choice across the country – Health Net and Tri-West. Pingree said that complaints about the operation of the Veterans Choice Program aren’t unique to Maine, but the complaints seem far worse in states where Health Net administers it.
“You shouldn’t have o call a Member of Congress to get a doctor’s appointment or get a bill paid,” concluded Pingree.