Thursday, September 20, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today received the final report from the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program, a private/public initiative to develop a comprehensive health care access and delivery system for the state’s veterans.
The report’s findings recommends a three-year test period to demonstrate that proposed changes in health care access and delivery programs will be more cost-effective and efficient than the current system. It recommends placing health care outsourcing under state control and management as opposed to continuing the contracting of services through the federal Veterans Choice Program. Leaders of the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program will present the recommendations to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation to pursue obtaining federal approval.
Fallin two years ago announced a bipartisan effort to establish an Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program to better serve the state’s approximately 302,000 veterans; more than 1,400 veterans are in the state’s seven veterans homes. Oklahoma has the 10th-largest veteran population per capita, but ranks only 18th among the states for federal allocations for U.S. Veterans Administration health care services.
More than 100 volunteers participated in the veterans pilot program. They included health care professionals from the private sector, federal government and state government as well as legislative leaders, legal professionals, education professionals, business leaders, former leaders of the armed forces, and several leaders from federal and state government agencies.
“I am extremely proud of this meaningful and comprehensive report that can potentially have a very positive and cost-effective change in the way health care is provided to veterans nationwide,” said Fallin. “This program model exemplifies what a bipartisan effort can produce when we work together as Oklahomans.”
The report concludes that moving current contracted services to the state would allow for:
• A greater multi-disciplinary and state service network of providers.
• A quicker response to issues that may develop within the provider network.
• A quicker response to issues that may develop within the veterans community.
• A greater transparency and accountability of funds being used.
• An ongoing outcome measurement and survey process to address the changing health care needs of veterans.
• A simplified application process and appointment scheduling system.
It recommends requesting $250 million over three years from the Veterans Choice Program of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs be allocated to the Oklahoma Veterans Pilot Program. Daily oversight and management of the Oklahoma Veterans Program would be placed at the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs (ODVA). The veterans pilot program will be kept independent from regular ODVA operations; a separate account would be established to receive and disperse program funds.
“This is the first model of its kind to significantly offer a better way of providing health care,” said Pete Peterson, chairman of the Oklahoma Veterans Council, which represents 23 veterans service organizations and eight associate organizations in Oklahoma. “I hope all veterans and veterans service organizations will get behind this plan, and encourage the president and our congressional delegation to support this initiative.”
The veterans program would cover health care services in mental health, home health, nursing care, rehabilitative services, and coordinated access to physician services, laboratory services, pharmacy services, and tele-health capability.
The report was based on surveys completed by nearly 3,000 veterans across the state. The survey showed that 47 percent of veterans who use Veterans Administration benefits were satisfied with their appointment times, while 72 percent of those who use private health care providers were satisfied with appointment times.
Pilot program leaders have established a veteran’s appointment goal of 20 days because of concerns expressed in the survey over long wait times. The Veterans Administrations standard is to be 30 days, although wait times of 90-120 days are common.
“I am very proud to be part of this initiative and hope this plan will be approved quickly so Oklahoma can begin testing this model and serving our veterans community,” Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs Myles Deering said. “There is no greater reward than helping those veterans who understand the true meaning of courage, sacrifice and honor. This program model delivers a network of care that provides timely health care access in a respectable and positive fashion all veterans will be proud to receive.”
“The program model and implementation plan we have presented is paradigm shifting, and can mean better health care for veterans nationwide,” said Pete Reed, who served as executive director of the ODVA during then-Gov. George Nigh’s administration. “Our veterans deserve, and have earned through sacrifice, the best health care available. This plan provides a cost-effective, efficient, and accessible network of care every veteran can support.”