VA Seeking Comment on Waiving Copayments for Veterans at High Risk for Suicide
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veteran Affairs is seeking public comment on a proposal to waive copayments for medications and health care services for veterans who have been identified as being at a high risk for suicide.
According to a notice published in the Federal Register on Jan. 5, the VA is statutorily required to set a copayment rate for outpatient medical care provided to veterans and has very little leeway to raise and reduce those payments.
In recent years, however, the VA has identified suicide prevention as a top clinical priority. As part of this effort, the VA was to act on a recommendation that health care professionals increase the frequency of outpatient mental health encounters to provide more intensive care to veterans at risk.
The problem is increased as outpatient visits could create a financial burden that will be detrimental to some vulnerable veterans.
In addition, the VA said internal reporting documents have revealed that there are substantial numbers of suicides and suicide attempts among veterans that result from overdoses of medications that are prescribed by VA providers on an outpatient basis.
As a result, the department was to prescribe medication in less than 30-day supplies. But this also creates a problem — if fewer pills are dispensed at a time, the veteran will have to return to get prescriptions more frequently, each of these visits requiring a copayment.
As a result, VA believes that current rules should be amended to allow for lesser copayment amounts for medications prescribed for a veteran at high risk of suicide.
“Through these efforts, VA will continue to address this national public health crisis by further eliminating financial burdens on Veterans which may negatively influence their engagement in mental health treatment and their critical medication availability,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a written statement.
The Federal Register notice can be found here. The public comment period ends March 7.
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