Bruce Poliquin focuses on helping veterans get services

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U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said Thursday he intends to push a measure aimed at making it possible for more nursing homes to treat veterans without facing as much bureaucratic rigmarole.

The 2nd District Republican told a small news conference in Lewiston that providers have to deal with “onerous red tape” to get reimbursed for offering veterans the same types of care that Medicaid and Medicare pay for with far less hassle.

Poliquin said as a result, some won’t offer the same care to veterans whose bills are paid by the Veterans Administration that they will for most other patients.

The Veterans Access to Long Term Care and Health Services Act that Poliquin plans to introduce Monday would fix the problem, he said.

“We have a lot of support on the committee level,” Poliquin said, adding that he is “really excited about this.”

The bill is a companion measure to one already introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Hoeven, who promoted a similar bill in 2015 that fell short, has said that only 15 of 80 nursing homes in North Dakota have contracts with the VA because its rules are too cumbersome.

The American Health Care Association hailed the proposal this summer.

“This crucial legislation ensures that America’s veterans have access to extended care services from providers who are closer to veterans’ homes and community support structures,” Mark Parkinson, president of the association, said in a prepared statement.

“These men and women selflessly served our country and it is important we provide them the best care possible,” he said.

The act would allow nursing homes to enter into provider agreements with the VA that would make them subject to the same rules and regulations as Medicare or Medicaid providers generally.

The bill has the support of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Poliquin announced his plans shortly before holding the first meeting of his new Veterans Advisory Panel, a group he created recently to hear directly from veterans from across his sprawling northern Maine district.

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U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin at his Lewiston office.

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