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Providers, Hospital an Option for Veterans Under Choice Program

June 02, 2017

Wilbarger General Hospital’s plan to be the health care hub for residents of Vernon and the surrounding area has multiple phases. While the phase to bring more physicians and nurse practitioners to Vernon will soon be complete, the phase to make primary care and disease prevention easily accessible to residents continues.

One group of residents that may now find it easier to get the health care they need is veterans of the Armed Forces. The Veterans Choice Program allows veterans to choose to receive care from community health care providers and hospitals, with those services being covered by their VA benefits.

The Veterans Choice Program was set to expire on Aug. 7, 2017, but in April, President Donald Trump signed a law removing the expiration date and expanding the program. Under the first version of the program, veterans had to go to a VA hospital if there was one within 40 miles of the veteran’s home. With the expansion of the program, access to care is increased for veterans, who can now choose primary health care providers in their community regardless of the proximity of a VA hospital.

With Oklahoma City and Amarillo having the closest VA facilities to residents in this area, the program saves local veterans hours of traveling to a VA physician or facility and back home again.

 “TriWest is the carrier that administers these benefits and Wilbarger General Hospital and Medical Group is already credentialed and in network with TriWest,” said Brandi Williams, Executive Director of the WG Medical Group. “This will make it easier on veterans to receive the health care they need, as they can now get that care closer to home.”

While it is a given that the hospital, along with all providers in the WG Medical Group, accept Medicare and Medicaid, along with all other insurance, Wilbarger General is working diligently to ensure it is in network with the major insurance providers in this area, including Blue Cross Blue Shield HMOs.

Being in network with insurance providers lowers the cost of medical services and usually lowers the patient’s co-pays and deductibles.

“We are working very, very hard to get everything worked out with the Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO,” said Wilbarger General CFO Richard Stokes. “We hope to be in network with them in the next 30 days or so.”

For residents who are uninsured or under-insured, the hospital has a financial assistance program that is based on income. Through the assistance program, patients may qualify for discounts for services, and patients can also set up payment plans.

The hospital also offers a 20 percent discount to patients who come to the hospital and pay their account off in full.

“We are here and ready to serve the residents of Vernon and our area communities,” CEO Claudia Eisenmann said. “We want everyone to receive the health care they need when they need it. Wilbarger General is here to serve our residents. We don’t want to let anything get in the way of that.”