Hospitals all across Florida are still waiting for the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay out $134.4 million in outstanding claims for medical services they provided to veterans who faced long wait times or far distances for care at a VA healthcare facility. The Florida Hospital Association announced on Thursday that 95% of all FHA member hospitals have unpaid claims with the VA, some outstanding for more than two years.
Delayed payments to non-VA hospitals continue to be “a major issue,” according to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican and chairman of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. The committee held a hearing on the issue in June, when VA officials promised to fix the problem. In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald dated Nov. 13, Miller warned that delayed payments loomed large over the department’s efforts to transform a healthcare system rocked by scandals over veterans’ long waits for care. Mary Kay Hollingsworth, communications manager for the VA’s statewide healthcare network, said in a written statement that the department has been doing a pretty good job of paying Florida hospitals on time.
Hollingsworth said that so far this year, the statewide VA healthcare system has referred nearly 100,000 patients to private hospitals and doctors, generating 1.7 million claims. The VA has processed 1.64 million of those claims, or about 95 percent of them, she wrote. Florida hospitals have received about $500 million in claims payments from the VA, she wrote. We will always have a balance of unpaid claims,” Hollingsworth noted, adding that roughly 80 percent of claims are processed within 30 days for authorized treatment or within 45 days for unauthorized or emergency care. The remaining 20 percent of claims from non-VA hospitals and doctors can be delayed, she said, “for any number of reasons such as denial due to ineligibility” or lack of documentation. The FHA is looking at 29,760 unpaid claims in Florida; more than 10,000 are more than a year old. Nearly 6,000 are more than two years old. U.S. Congressman David Jolly (R – Fla.) signed the letter demanding an explanation from VA secretary Robert McDonald.
The outside providers have to get paid for their work and what we’ve have learned is that the doctors on the outside are not getting paid by the VA, and that’s wrong because ultimately it reduces access to care for veterans.”
The $134.4 million in total unpaid claims reported by FHA member hospitals likely includes a combination of hospital charges. Shane Suzuki, spokesman for the VA Healthcare System says despite the unpaid claims for non-VA care, veterans’ access to the Miami VA Healthcare System continues to work.