Senators urge TriWest to ensure veterans' urgent care access

Senators urge TriWest to ensure veterans' urgent care access

WASHINGTON - Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, pressed TriWest Healthcare Alliance Tuesday on its implementation of the new urgent care benefit under the VA MISSION Act following reports that veterans in rural Oregon and Idaho are unable to access the benefit.

The senators, in a letter to the TriWest President and Chief Executive Officer David J. McIntyre, Jr., noted that veterans in rural communities in their state have cited the lack of an urgent care network in their area, as well as additional barriers to information on their options through the TriWest locator tool.

"Unfortunately, we have heard from veterans who are unable to use this new urgent care benefit due to the lack of an urgent care network in their area," the senators wrote. "Veterans in Roseburg, Oregon have no in-network urgent care clinics within 20 miles, and veterans in John Day, Oregon—a community classified as "frontier" by the Oregon Office of Rural Health—would have to travel 74 miles to access urgent care.

"Pocatello, Idaho, with a population of approximately 55,000, has no in-network urgent care clinics within 20 miles, and Lewiston, Idaho, which has a population of approximately 33,000, has no in-network clinics within 50 miles.

"Veterans also tell us that TriWest's locator tool exacerbates these distance problems by basing locations on direct geographical distance rather than actual driving distance. As a result, some of our veterans are finding that clinics are even further away than they appear in the tool."

The senators requested that TriWest provide answers to the following questions:

  • What are the barriers preventing TriWest from building out its urgent care network by the original deadline of July 15, 2019, previously cited on TriWest's website?
  • What metrics is TriWest using to determine when the urgent care network is "complete"?
  • By when is the urgent care network expected to be "complete"?

"We also urge TriWest to work closely with the VAMCs in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington to build out its urgent care network as soon as possible and ensure that veterans receive clear information about their options," continued the senators.

A full copy of the letter can be found here.