Bill would allow Veterans to use local hospitals and physicians

By Audrey Williams

June 8, 2012 Updated Jun 9, 2012 at 10:46 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Thanks to medical advances more veterans are returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan than wars in our past. Consequently, a larger number of veterans are seeking treatments, creating a burden on VA Clinics around the County.

"It has increased wait time, it has limited access and it has required a considerable amount of drive time depending on where you live in Illinois," said Congressman Aaron Schock (R).

Currently, veterans in central Illinois that cannot be treated at the Peoria Bob Michael VA Outpatient clinic must travel to the VA hospital in Danville.

"That's a two hour drive, two hour plus," said Rep. Schock, "By the time you drive down there, get your treatment and drive back in many cases the veteran isn't feeling that much better."

The measure passed by the House would put additional $16 million toward an existing federal pilot program, allowing veterans to choose hospitals and physicians closer to home.

"Allowing that veteran to get their treatment in a local community hospital not only saves the VA money, but it is also the right thing to do by the veteran," said Rep. Schock.

The program is being tested in rural areas throughout the U.S. Currently Peoria is not one of those areas, but Proctor CEO Paul Macek says the hospital would like to be considered.

"This is a different approach, frankly I think a better approach particularly for access from the patient and the family's perspective," said Maeck.

"For some of the veterans from the Iran and the Iraq conflicts, we have an addiction recovery center that's not available in Danville," adds Macek.

Local physicians would be reimbursed at the same rate that the federal government pays veterans' clinics.

"It's not a situation where the health care community loses money on these patients," adds Rep. Schock.

Congressman Schock is now asking the senate to support the bill so the government can continue to find ways to take care of the veterans who take care of us.

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