Commission on Care Panel Considers Closing VA Healthcare Facilities


By Debbie Gregory.

In Section 202 of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, Congress established the Commission on Care to examine veterans’ access to VA healthcare. The commission was also tasked with how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration, locate health resources, and deliver healthcare to veterans over the next 20 years. The Commission reports to the President of the United States through the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

In an interim report, the Commission on Care is weighing a radical proposal to eliminate all VA medical centers and outpatient facilities over the next 20 years, and transition veterans to the private sector for healthcare. The VA eventually would become primarily a payer, much like Medicare

Veterans would have immediate access to private health services. The VA health facilities would gradually close, beginning with the facilities that are the most obsolete or underutilized.

The seven commission members whose names appear on the document were headed up by Commissioner David Blom, president and CEO of the Ohio Health system, who is credited as author of the report.

Blom wrote that the healthcare needs of veterans are not being met under the current system and that the goal is to “meet the needs of every veteran.”

“The commission finds the current VA healthcare system is seriously broken, and because of the breadth and depth of the shortfalls, there is no efficient path to repair it,” Blom and other commission members wrote in the report, created as part of an overall effort to explore VA healthcare reform options.

Under the proposal, veterans would be able to receive care at any provider that accepts VA payments or Medicare. Doctors would be reimbursed at rates 5 percent to 10 percent higher than Medicare rates to encourage them to participate.

However, there are several veterans’ organizations and VA officials who disagree with the proposal, saying that the VA health system performs better on outpatient measures than civilian, Medicare and Medicaid health maintenance organizations.

A final report from the commission is due by June.