The Senate voted 95-2 to pass the MISSION Act, which aims to give veterans improved access to care outside the VA health system.
The bill, known as the VA Maintaining Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks (MISSION) Act of 2018, previously passed through the House with a 347-70 vote.
The MISSION Act includes $55 billion in reform funding, and funding for an additional year of the VA Choice program. The Mission Act will replace the Choice program through consolidation of private care programs, according to the bill. The bill also includes funding for reforms of the drug monitoring program, EHR data exchange between the VA and private providers, and health data access for community care.
President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law, according to a press statement from the White House.
“President Donald J. Trump applauds the US Senate for voting to pass the VA MISSION Act today, an important piece of legislation that will transform the VA into a high-performing and integrated health care system for the 21st century and provide Veterans with more choice in their health care options, whether from VA doctors or from the community,” the White House statement said.
Only 5 Senators voted against the bill, including Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) and Bob Corker (R-Tennessee).
“The bill invests billions of dollars to support private health care for veterans, but doesn’t put a single dollar into filling 30,000 vacancies in the VA health system,” Senator Merkley said in a press release. “This bias for privatization is extremely troubling.
In addition, this bill fundamentally changes the funding stream for the VA system, subjecting the VA’s future funding to unnecessary uncertainty and politicization. That’s unacceptable. Veterans rely on having a VA system that focuses specifically on the unique needs of veterans, and our veterans need that focus and expertise to be there for them today, tomorrow, and generations to come.”
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