Ascension applauds leaders in the House and Senate on both sides of the aisle who continue to work hard to ensure the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act (VA Mission Act) becomes a reality for the more than 9 million people who access the veterans' healthcare system.
We recognize this bipartisan legislation as a vital step toward our veterans receiving the care they need—when and where they need it—much like other modern-day healthcare consumers, who want to make decisions based on the access, affordability, overall experience and quality they receive.
The new bill includes many of Ascension's priorities for improving care for our nation's veterans. It will provide the tools and resources veterans need to make informed decisions, as well as allow other health systems to pilot new value-based payment and delivery models that have the potential to reduce costs and increase access to quality care.
Under the new Veterans Community Care Program, veterans will receive information about their care options and how to access them. The VA Mission Act will also enable the VA and non-VA caregivers to more effectively and efficiently share medical records. This integral piece of the puzzle will allow caregivers to see the big picture of a veteran's health journey so they can deliver even better, more coordinated care.
And while the Veterans Choice Program is going to transition to the new program, some of the processes for how care is authorized by private providers might carry over. For example, in cases where the VA is unable to make an appointment in a timely manner, the veteran should be advised that they have the option of either accepting a VA appointment, even if untimely, or rejecting the appointment date and receiving care from a private provider.
We realize the VA Mission Act will be a new program and there will be growing pains. But we stand behind the ideals and concepts that the VA Mission Act promises our veterans, and we are ready to continue the partnership we have formed with the VA since the inception of the Veterans Choice Program.
In the past two years alone, Ascension has attended to approximately 50,000 visits from veterans through the Veterans Choice Program, 94% of which were outpatient. Nationwide, Ascension has connected veterans to the care they need through a National Veterans Call Center designed for and composed of veterans.
Ascension continues to think differently about how we can care about our veterans and use the lessons learned from the program thus far. We learn from providers who participate in the program and, most importantly, from veterans themselves on how we can better improve care delivery for this important population. For example, Ascension consistently has exceeded the VA standard for wait times on appointments.
We are privileged that so many veterans have chosen Ascension to help expand their access to timely, high-quality healthcare. Ascension continues to work with leaders at the VA and with Congress to make the program even stronger.
Ascension's mission calls us to care for all, especially the poor and vulnerable. It's for this reason that the VA Mission Act truly resonates with us, and we are humbled to serve this deserving population.
That is why, on behalf of Ascension and its 165,000 providers and caregivers, I encourage the Senate to take up the House-passed legislation and send it to the president's desk by Memorial Day. It's the least we can do for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
Anthony Tersigni is president and CEO of Ascension