Providing veterans in our community the care they need
By: Jeannie Harkness, Clinic Manager
Boundary Community Clinic
Boundary County has a community that sets the example when it comes to service and honor. With more than 1,500 veterans located in Boundary County, we are fortunate to have retired, reserve, and active duty service men and women living here. As a rural community, it has been frustrating for many veterans to find local healthcare services as part of their VA benefits. Stories abound of veterans driving round trip to the VA Center in Spokane for a ten minute appointment.
Luckily, the Veterans Administration (VA) has been striving to change the situation and make healthcare more accessible for those that have served our country and live in our community. In August 2019, VA awarded TriWest Healthcare Alliance a contract to administer the new Community Care Network (CCN) in Region 4 which includes Idaho. TriWest is responsible for building and maintaining a network of community health care providers, paying claims, and providing customer service under the CCN contract.
Boundary Community Hospital (BCH) has always been committed to caring for the Veterans in our community. In order to facilitate care for these patients, BCH has instituted several processes to expedite services, improve communication, and provide the necessary information so that services can be billed appropriately and accurately.
As the primary local health resource, BCH strives to add service-lines if a need is recognized and works with local healthcare providers to streamline processes to make it easier for veterans and their families to access the care they need.
As the Clinic Manager, I’m thankful Boundary Community Clinics, a division of BCH, has been added as a new Urgent Care site for veterans within the last year. We are currently the only VA Authorized Urgent Care facility in Boundary County. The clinic is always accepting new patients and their families with VA Insurance Plans such as Veteran Patient-Centered Care Clinic (VAPCCC), Tri-West Healthcare Alliance, and Tri-Care insurances. Additionally, the clinic is in the process of potentially expanding services to include Annual Disability Exams to better serve those veterans with disabilities in our county.
Due to the constant program changes that veterans and healthcare organizations faced, local veterans have struggled to access outpatient services available in Bonners Ferry such as lab tests and x-rays. When the 2019 Mission Act replaced the VA Choice Program, specific processes were put in place for veterans to receive care from local providers. It also gave healthcare organizations the understanding of what needs to be completed in order to care for a veteran at their facility. One component that has not changed is that all veterans require authorization for services prior to being seen in an outpatient setting, unless it is an emergency room visit.
As a hospital and primary care clinic trying to serve the veterans of our community, we can direct veterans through the process to ensure authorization has been obtained for services needed, creating a smooth transition from one area to another. We coordinate with the VA to ensure that billing is handled properly so that our veterans are cared for appropriately. We are honored to have veterans in our community, and to be able to provide veterans with the care they need.
This Veteran’s Day, and every day, we are proud to serve those who have served our country.