WASHINGTON, D.C. (WAFB) - US Senator Bill Cassidy, MD (R-LA) introduced the Veterans Emergency Room Relief Act of 2017 in the US Senate, which would require the Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA) to pay for care provided to our nation's veterans in urgent care centers. US Representative Clay Higgins (R-LA-3) plans to introduce companion legislation in the US House of Representatives.
Urgent care centers (UCC) have the capacity to care for veterans in the communities where they live without excessive wait times. Veterans and should have access to urgent care centers for non-emergency health care needs that nevertheless require immediate attention, as well as other common illnesses and injuries that can worsen if not addressed in a timely manner. Currently, the VA does not cover veterans seeking health care from UCC facilities.
"Our veterans deserve the highest level of timely and quality care possible," said Dr. Cassidy. "The VA should always be working in ways that best serve our veterans. This legislation meets that requirement."
Features of the Veterans Emergency Room Relief Act (VERRA) of 2017 include:
- Authorizing VHA to allow veterans to receive care from nationally accredited urgent care facilities that have entered into a contract with the VA.
- Providing veterans greater access to healthcare in their communities.
- Decreasing the demand for overburdened emergency rooms at VHA Hospitals.
- Cutting wait times significantly for receiving common and acute care within the VHA.
- Potentially reducing the overall cost of providing timely non-emergency care.
- Requiring the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit a report every two years regarding urgent care utilization and the impact on emergency room facilities in the department.
The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) has expressed strong support for this legislation. The UCAOA represents an industry of more than 8,000 urgent care centers throughout the United States. Urgent care centers play a dominant and important integrative role in health care communities across the country and are uniquely positioned to resolve the significant health care access issues facing our nation's veterans.
"Veterans in need of urgent care and who may not be able to access a primary care physician or VA facility in a timely manner are seeking care in the emergency department, many times finding themselves responsible for the cost of that care when the prudent layperson standard of an emergency is not met," said Pamela Sullivan, MD, UCAOA president.
"The VA has highlighted the essential need to partner with providers in communities across the country to meet the 'steep increase in demand for care' for veterans," said Sullivan. "Not only will the Veterans Emergency Room Relief Act serve to meet the health care needs of veterans, but it has the potential to reduce health care costs to the VA system."
"The Urgent Care Association of America thanks Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) for their critical leadership on this important legislation," said Steve Sellars, UCAOA immediate past president and Chief Executive Officer of Premier Health in Baton Rouge.
To read the full legislative text, click here.