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NH health care providers say VA is making progress on payment backlog

Department of Veteran Affairs (AgnosticPreachersKid/WikiCommons)

Over the past several months, the amount Veterans Affairs owes to New Hampshire health care providers has declined, as the VA and a third-party payment administrator work through claims.

Veterans who have health insurance through the VA do not always receive treatment at VA facilities. If a veteran lives too far from a VA hospital, faces a long wait at the VA, or needs specialized care that their local VA hospital does not offer, he or she can go to another local health care provider.

These non-VA providers are known as the Community Care Network. A veteran can get care at one of these providers, and the VA reimburses the provider.

Providers complained of delays and errors in payments last year, and the VA brought in a new contractor to process those claims. But the administration is still working through the nationwide payment backlog.

The New Hampshire Hospital Association estimated the VA owed a total of $137 million to New Hampshire providers earlier this year, from large hospitals like Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital in Manchester, to small providers like acupuncturists and home health care providers.

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“We have made progress over the last nine months,” said Catholic Medical Center’s Chief Operating Officer Alex Walker.

At the beginning of this year, Walker said, the hospital was owed $27 million by the VA, Walker said. Now, the administration owes the hospital $11 million.

The company that started administering these claims for the VA earlier this year has been better than the previous administrator, Walker said.

“We want to be the hospital of choice for veterans,” Walker said. Since New Hampshire does not have a full-service VA hospital as other states do, Walker said, veterans either have to get care in non-VA hospitals, or travel to hospitals in Massachusetts and Vermont.

Wendy Buckley, senior director of operations at the Stratham branch of home health care agency Senior Helpers, was at one point owed more than $100,000, Wendy Buckley, senior director of operations told Rep. Chris Pappas’ office. Buckley said Pappas’ office had helped her resolve some of the old claims.

The payment backlog was a national issue, but Pappas said last week he has tried to make sure New Hampshire gets special attention. Since the state does not have a full-service VA hospital, more veterans here rely on community care providers, he said.

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(c) 2020 The New Hampshire Union Leader

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.