Government, Health Care, and Human Resources

Health system joins federal Veterans Choice Program

April 13, 2016
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Kalamazoo-based Borgess Medical Center is the flagship hospital of the Borgess Health system. Courtesy Borgess Health

A statewide health care system has joined the Veterans Choice Program, which will allow it to provide services to veterans in the state.

Ascension Michigan, a Catholic health care system with locations throughout Michigan, including the Kalamazoo-based Borgess Health system, said last month that it has joins 23 other states and the District of Columbia as an official provider of veteran care outside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA.

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 established funding to pay for health care services provided to veterans by private health care providers.

Ascension said it has established a contractual agreement with TriWest Healthcare Alliance, as well as national provider registration with Health Net Federal Services, which are both federal contractors to the VA.

As Veterans Choice Program contractors, TriWest and Health Net are designated by the VA to implement the Veterans Choice Program and provide eligible veterans access to care in their communities when the local VA facility cannot readily provide care.

Through the partnership, Ascension Michigan physicians and other caregivers are authorized to provide primary care, inpatient and outpatient specialty care and mental health care for eligible veterans.

Qualified U.S. veterans who face wait times in excess of 30 days at the VA or have to travel farther than 40 miles from their homes can receive care from Ascension Michigan doctors at hundreds of sites statewide.

Gwen MacKenzie, SVP, Ascension Health, Michigan Market Executive, said Ascension Michigan is “proud” to be able to offer “high quality, compassionate, personalized care” to eligible veterans in Michigan.

She noted many of the health system’s associates and physicians have friends or family members who are veterans, which makes the program “very personal for us.”

Nearly nine million veterans received the Veterans Choice Card. Use of the card is voluntary. Veterans who qualify for VA health care can continue to receive care at a VA medical facility as they have in the past.

The program will end when the allocated funds of $10 billion are used or no later than August 7, 2017.

Veterans can determine eligibility for the Veterans Choice Program at the VA website or by calling the number on their Choice Card, 1-866-606-8198.

They can also contact the Ascension National Veterans Call Center at 1-844-623-3003 for more information about Ascension and the care it provides or for assistance scheduling an appointment with a local Ascension provider who's participating in the Veterans Choice Program.

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