Washington, D.C. – Quality health care does no good if an individual is in a rural area and can’t access services, said U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., who is cosponsoring legislation to increase the quality of veteran health care as well as make it easier for veterans in Wyoming to drive to locations for care.
Enzi signed onto a bill, S. 1146, the Rural Veterans Healthcare Improvement Act of 2007, this week.
"This legislation is important to all veterans, but especially to veterans in rural states like Wyoming. What good is quality medical care if it cannot be accessed? Wyoming veterans must travel to one of two Veterans Affairs hospitals in the state, either Cheyenne or Sheridan. With the high price of gasoline and the excessive cost of traveling long distances on a routine basis, it can become much more expensive for veterans in rural areas to obtain health care services," said Enzi, ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The bill would improve reimbursement rates for veterans for travel expenses related to VA medical care. It would boost the reimbursement rate from 11 cents a mile to 48.5 cents a mile, which is the same rate paid to federal employees. The bill would require the Office of Rural Health to develop demonstration projects to expand care in rural areas through partnerships between the Veterans Affairs (VA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services at critical access hospitals and community health centers. The bill would establish Centers of Excellence to research ways to improve care for rural veterans. The bill would also establish a VetsRide grant program, funded at $3 million per year, to provide innovative transportation options to veterans in remote rural areas.
Senator Ken Salazar, D-Colo., introduced the bill, which has been referred to the Senate Veteran's Affairs Committee for further consideration.