The House of Representatives last night voted 347-70 to approve bipartisan legislation to streamline and consolidate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ community care programs into a permanent Veterans Community Care Program. As amended, the VA MISSION Act of 2018 (S. 2372) would require access to community care based on certain access criteria, doing away with the 40-mile or 30-day wait period currently required through the Choice Program. The bill would establish Medicare payment rates for community care, with certain exceptions for rural areas and value-based payment models; require VA to establish a prompt payment process; and establish processes to improve information sharing with community providers and ensure safe opioid prescribing practices. The legislation also would provide $5.2 billion to extend the VA Choice Program for one year, which is expected to run out of funds this month, until the new program takes effect; create a commission to recommend ways to modernize or realign Veterans Health Administration facilities; expand the VA Post-9/11 Caregiver Program; and establish a pilot VA residency program and loan repayment program for residents training in shortage specialties, among other provisions. The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation before Memorial Day, and the president is expected to quickly sign it if passed. 

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