Target 8: Not so choice words for the VA’s Veterans Choice program

"The big problem that I'm having is getting paid," said Dr. Lawrence Goldberg.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — If veterans in the St. Petersburg area are looking for a good eye surgeon, they might not be able to call on Dr. Lawrence Goldberg much longer. Goldberg says he is done with the Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Choice program .

“The big problem that I’m having is getting paid,” he said. “I’m about six months out on the last cataract I did.”

Goldberg contends Health Net, the company that administers the Veterans Choice program for the VA in the eastern half of the country, is to blame. “I’ve never in 34 years of practice had to deal with an insurance company like this,” he said.

Back in January, Target 8 reported the VA was $134 million behind on payments to health care providers throughout Florida. “A couple of months would be fine, but this is getting kind of ridiculous,” Goldberg said at the time.

In February, Goldberg sent an email to VA Secretary Robert McDonald.  He complained he had “not been paid in over six months.”

Goldberg also pointed out he and his staff were “spending endless hours on the phone, sending and resending countless pages of unnecessary documentation.”

“There’s just something wrong,” he added.

Now, Goldberg claims, when his staff members reach out to Health Net, it’s worse than before. “Two hours on hold before they could actually talk to a live person,” he said.

Target 8 reached out to Health Net. The company is checking into Goldberg’s claim that he has not been paid in a timely manner.

Congress spent $10 billion creating the Choice program after discovering veterans died waiting for medical treatment at the VA. Now, it’s clear the VA itself is as much to blame as anyone for the slow payments to doctors and hospitals.

A 308-page report by an independent organization called the Commission on Care, submitted to President Barack Obama and the VA reads, “The VA has an antiquated, slow and inefficient claims processing system.”

“Seems like the problems are not getting fixed,” Goldberg said.

The report also found “the design and execution of the Choice program are flawed.” In its place,the commission offered specific recommendations for community-based delivery networks that provide veterans with more options, access and quality.

You can find the report here.

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