House poised to expand private care at VA


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

House approval Wednesday of legislation giving veterans more leeway to see doctors outside the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health system would help fulfill President Donald Trump’s promise of expanded private care.

The long-awaited plan would mean a major change in how veterans receive their medical treatment. With approval from a VA health provider, they could see a private doctor when they felt dissatisfied with government-run VA care, whether the result of lengthy wait times or dissatisfaction with the treatment they had received.

Some Democrats have criticized this shift as a risky step toward “privatizing” the VA.

The $51 billion measure, expected to pass the GOP-run House in an evening vote, also would avert a catastrophic shutdown of the VA’s troubled Choice private-sector program by providing it $5 billion to continue operating for another year.

The program will run out of money as early as May 31, causing disruptions in care to tens of thousands of patients.

Senators are seeking a vote before their Memorial Day break, and Trump has said he is ready to sign the bill, which has the support of nearly 40 veterans organizations.

The plan would make the Choice program a longer-term fixture, with room for expansion based on veterans’ demand for private services and when VA care is deemed inadequate.

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