By Debbie Gregory.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides healthcare to veterans through medical centers and clinics owned and run by the federal government, although veterans can also see private doctors through the Choice if VA wait times are too long. The Department of Defense provides healthcare to current servicemembers, retirees and their families through TRICARE, insurance that is paid for by the government and uses private doctors and hospitals. But soon, the two may be one and the same.
The VA generally serves older, sicker veterans, while TRICARE’s patients are generally healthier.
VA Secretary David Shulkin has been exploring the option of integrating VA and Pentagon health care. This follows the VA’s planned adoption of utilizing a similar electronic health record (EHR) platform as the Defense Department’s MHS GENESIS.
“VA’s adoption of the same EHR system as DoD will ultimately result in all patient data residing in one common system and enable seamless care between the Departments without the manual and electronic exchange and reconciliation of data between two separate systems,” said Shulkin.
Since an overhaul of VA’s EHR won’t be completed for another seven to eight years, a TRICARE merger would more than likely take at least as long.
News of the plan is worrying various veterans groups. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans have expressed that a TRICARE merger is likely to be a “non-starter” if the goal is to transform VA care into an insurance plan.
Louis Celli, director of veterans’ affairs and rehabilitation for The American Legion, said outsourcing services away from the current VA system via its medical centers and clinics would be financially unsustainable.
Bob Wallace, the executive director of VFW’s Washington office said that his organization would oppose any effort to reduce the VA’s role of providing care for veterans.
What do you think?