WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with a bipartisan group of senators, this week demanded that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) take action to hold Health Net—the primary contractor running the Choice Program in Colorado—accountable for its “frustrating and completely avoidable” customer service problems and late payments to community providers.
The senators wrote to VA Secretary David Shulkin to urge him to take immediate action to guarantee that Health Net meets its contract requirements and fulfills its responsibility to the nation’s veterans.
“Our home state providers deserve better than the miserable customer service provided to them by Health Net, who appears to be devoting even less attention to the Choice Program as its expiration nears,” the senators wrote. “Moving forward, we expect VA to take immediate action to address our concerns so that the provider experience is improved. And if Health Net continues to underperform, we urge VA to immediately enforce penalties, including the potential discontinuation of any payments, until Health Net starts meeting all of its contractual obligations and most importantly, its responsibilities to America’s veterans.”
In addition to Bennet, the following senators signed the letter: U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
The full letter from March 12 to Secretary Shulkin follows:
“We are fed up. In our view, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) management of the Health Net contract has been a failure. While Health Net is the administrator of the Veterans Choice Program in our states, VA is ultimately accountable for Health Net’s poor performance.
For three years we have worked with VA and Health Net to make the Veterans Choice Program more responsive to our home state providers who offer critical treatment and care to veterans when VA is unable to do so in a timely manner. We have regularly intervened on behalf of providers who have struggled to be paid in a timely manner after treating veterans. When dealing with Health Net, our providers have sat through lengthy call center hold times, had emails for assistance go unanswered and submitted lost paperwork over and over again. These providers, many of them small, have routinely carried high VA balances because payment to them has not been a priority. These frustrating and completely avoidable experiences have tarnished VA’s reputation with those community providers who have stepped in to provide care to veterans. And more critically, they have contributed to a decreasing lack of trust by veterans and taxpayers in the VA’s ability to provide quality and timely care to veterans.
Our home state providers deserve better than the miserable customer service provided to them by Health Net, which appears to be devoting even less attention to the Choice Program as its expiration nears. Moving forward, we expect VA to take immediate action to address our concerns so that the provider experience is improved. That means our providers need to have their calls answered without waiting on hold for hours, they need responses to their emailed requests for assistance and paperwork needs to be routed to the appropriate place. And most importantly, they need to be paid for the services they are providing to our veterans.