Congress passed the Veterans Access to Care Act of 2014, which includes the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights as a provision, on Aug. 1. The private contracting provision of the Act, which applies to physicians, hospitals and other health care providers, including orthotists and prosthetists, was designed to address long waiting times for care.
With passage of the Injured and Amputee Veterans Bill of Rights, veterans will have the right to access the private O&P practitioner of their choice, regardless of whether the practitioner is contracted with the Veterans Administration (VA). It also requires the VA to permit access to private practitioners when veterans cannot receive an appointment within 30 days or live more than 40 miles away from the nearest VA facility or clinic. There are also specific provisions for veterans in highly rural areas. For a veteran to gain access to a private O&P practitioner, the practitioner must participate in the Medicare program, must agree to accept Medicare rates, and must retain all the licenses and credentials required by Medicare.
According to a release from the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP), how this new form of access for veterans interacts with the current system is not yet clear.
“Currently, over 80% of O&P care for veterans is provided by private practitioners under contract with the VA. Many of those contracts are at discounted rates off the Medicare fee schedule. The number of contracts totaled 600 in the past but more recently, that number has been reduced as the VA strengthened its internal capacity to provide O&P care.
NAAOP will work with its Alliance partners to clarify the new provisions and will continue to work in a bipartisan manner, with Rep. Renee Ellmers and others, to pass other important aspects of the VA Bill of Rights in future VA legislation,” according to the release.