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VA years behind on millions in payments to hospitals that took care of vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs Building. (JeffOnWire/Flickr)
March 29, 2018

A recent report revealed that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) owes millions of dollars in payments to some local hospitals in Maine that have taken care of veterans as part of the VA Choice Program.

Veterans sometimes have to seek medical care outside their VA hospitals, and they do through through the VA Choice Program, and the VA is then supposed to pay for that care.

However, VA is too slow at paying hospitals for these services and has accumulated millions of dollars in debt.

On Monday, Augusta Congressman Bruce Poliquin introduced the bipartisan Rural Hospitals Caucus. If passed, the caucus will seek help from Congress to assist the local hospitals that service vets.

“We need to make sure that these rural hospitals that contract for the VA to provide services to our veterans get paid, and the reason for that is not only to help our veterans but to make sure the hospitals stay open because it helps everybody in the community,” Poliquin said.

“There are 50 million Americans that rely on rural hospitals for their healthcare. These problems exist throughout the country, not just Maine,” Poliquin said.

“It’s a system-wide issue from the Aroostook Medical Center to our hospitals in Hancock County, to our very rural hospitals in Pittsfield and Greenville. The Veterans Administration is fundamentally challenged to pay their bills on time. It’s highly inefficient on their end and on our end to spend so much time reviewing each and every claim in an effort to get paid,” said Lisa Harvey-McPherson with Eastern Maine Healthcare System, according to WABI 5 News.

“We’re incurring the cost to provide care for those veterans, but yet when the revenues to offset the costs of that care are received two or three years later, it’s a significant challenge and it impacts cash flow. It impacts the amount of investments that we can provide into rural communities,” she continued.

“When our rural hospitals are at risk, our rural economies are at risk,” Harvey-McPherson added.