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With Late VA Payments Still Costing Maine Home Care Providers, King Pushes to Improve Claims Process

BRUNSWICK, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) today urged Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Robert Wilkie to improve the VA’s payment processing and ensure delayed payments do not harm Maine healthcare providers’ viability – or the veterans who rely on their services. Senator King’s letter specifically references the impact of delays on FirstLight Home Care, a Maine-based personal care agency that decided earlier this week to no longer work with the VA due to delayed payments and a lack of transparency. Prior to this week’s move, FirstLight provided home care services to approximately 60 Maine veterans. The letter requests that the VA and its new third party contractor organize an immediate briefing with Maine’s community care providers to open a dialogue that will help clarify and streamline the payment processing system.

“It is my understanding that, following the rollout of Optum as the new third party contactor for the VA New England Healthcare System at the end of 2019, the claims process has improved for many Maine providers,” writes Senator King. “While this news is encouraging, I believe it is important to bring to your attention the adverse impact delayed payments can have on Maine community care providers and the eligible veterans they serve.”

“FirstLight Home Care, a Maine-based personal care services agency, announced this week that it plans to discontinue its work with the VA. FirstLight cites continued delays in the VA claims process and a lack of transparency with the payment schedule for its decision to end services to Maine veterans. I am deeply concerned about the clients who will lose the essential services the agency currently provides. This announcement is a painful example of why the VA, in partnership with Optum, must remain vigilant to guarantee timely payment processing. As mentioned in the Maine congressional delegation’s November 7, 2019 letter, Maine community care providers from around the state have raised these concerns and it is imperative the VA do more to build trust with these providers.”

A member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator King has been an advocate for Maine veterans during his time in the U.S. Senate, working to honor their service and provide them with the high-quality care they have earned through their service. In November 2019, he led the Maine delegation in sending a letter to Secretary Wilkie raising the issue of late payments from the VA to Maine community hospitals and health care providers.

Senator King’s full letter can be downloaded HERE or read below:

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Dear Secretary Wilkie,

Thank you for your January 24, 2020 response letter regarding the Maine congressional delegation’s concerns about delayed payments for community care services. I appreciate that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to resolving these claims, and will continue to closely track the payment process and listen to feedback from Maine community care providers to ensure their claims are processed in timely manner. It is my understanding that, following the rollout of Optum as the new third party contactor for the VA New England Healthcare System at the end of 2019, the claims process has improved for many Maine providers.

While this news is encouraging, I believe it is important to bring to your attention the adverse impact delayed payments can have on Maine community care providers and the eligible veterans they serve.

FirstLight Home Care, a Maine-based personal care services agency, announced this week that it plans to discontinue its work with the VA. FirstLight cites continued delays in the VA claims process and a lack of transparency with the payment schedule for its decision to end services to Maine veterans. I am deeply concerned about the clients who will lose the essential services the agency currently provides. This announcement is a painful example of why the VA, in partnership with Optum, must remain vigilant to guarantee timely payment processing. As mentioned in the Maine congressional delegation’s November 7, 2019 letter, Maine community care providers from around the state have raised these concerns and it is imperative the VA do more to build trust with these providers.

As such, I am requesting that the VA immediately organize a briefing with Optum and community care providers in Maine on the new claims processing system. Provider concerns need to be addressed to help foster a strong and transparent relationship between parties; Maine providers deserve a clear understanding of the new system so they can efficiently navigate future claims. I understand such briefings have occurred at other VA Medical Centers throughout the country and have proved productive.

I look forward to working with you, Optum, Togus VA Medical Center, and Maine providers to build understanding and to continue streamlining payment processing so our veterans can access the care they are owed.

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