NPR, April 19, 2017
Eric Whitney

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It's a fix that hasn't fixed much, but the troubled Veterans Choice program has been extended anyway.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a bill extending the program intended to speed veterans' access to health care beyond its original August end point.

Veterans Choice is a $10 billion response to the 2014 scandal in which Veterans Affairs health facilities altered records to hide months-long waits for care in Phoenix and elsewhere. The Choice program pays for private-sector health care for veterans and was set to expire in August, but the VA and some of the program's harshest critics in Congress have agreed to extend it, with a few changes, until January. They said that will give the VA time to propose a more comprehensive package of reforms — fixes for the fix.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., authored the extension bill, which won bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

Veterans Choice is designed to allow veterans who have waited more than 30 days for an appointment at a VA facility, or who live more than 40 miles from one, instead to get care from private providers who then bill the VA. But it has been plagued with problems. Many vets complain that Choice actually makes getting care more difficult and time-consuming, and some health care providers have dropped out due to slow payments or administrative hassles. [...]

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