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How Did Veterans' Reliance on Veterans Health Administration Outpatient Care Change After Expansion of the Veterans Community Care Program?

Sterling RA, Liu CF, Hebert PL, Fortney JC, Swankoski KE, Katon JG, Wong ES. How Did Veterans' Reliance on Veterans Health Administration Outpatient Care Change After Expansion of the Veterans Community Care Program? Medical care. 2022 Oct 1; 60(10):784-791.

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BACKGROUND: The Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) aims to address access constraints in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) by reimbursing care from non-VA community providers. Little existing research explores how veterans'' choice of VA versus VCCP providers has evolved as a significant VCCP expansion in 2014 as part of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. OBJECTIVES: We examined changes in reliance on VA for primary care (PC), mental health (MH), and specialty care (SC) among VCCP-eligible veterans. RESEARCH DESIGN: We linked VA administrative data with VCCP claims to retrospectively examine utilization during calendar years 2016-2018. SUBJECTS: 1.78 million veterans enrolled in VA before 2013 and VCCP-eligible in 2016 due to limited VA capacity or travel hardship. MEASURES: We measured reliance as the proportion of total annual outpatient (VA+VCCP) visits occurring in VA for PC, MH, and SC. RESULTS: Of the 26.1 million total outpatient visits identified, 45.6% were for MH, 29.9% for PC, and 24.4% for SC. Over the 3 years, 83.2% of veterans used any VA services, 23.8% used any VCCP services, and 20.0% were dual VA-VCCP users. Modest but statistically significant declines in reliance were observed from 2016-2018 for PC (94.5%-92.2%), and MH (97.8%-96.9%), and a more significant decline was observed for SC (88.5%-79.8%). CONCLUSIONS: Veterans who have the option of selecting between VA or VCCP providers continued using VA for most of their outpatient care in the initial years after the 2014 VCCP expansion.

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