U.S. House votes to give veterans access to private care to ease delays

WASHINGTON, June 10 Tue Jun 10, 2014 3:12pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, June 10 (Reuters) - Eager to address the crisis over delays in healthcare for veterans, the U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously on Tuesday to give thousands of patients emergency access to private care.

The legislation passed 421-0 as lawmakers moved quickly to address a crisis that has embarrassed the Obama administration and worried lawmakers in the run-up to November's mid-term elections. The Senate is considering a similar bill after the government found clinics run by Veterans Affairs were hiding long wait times, during which some veterans are said to have died.

Both measures would allow veterans access to private health care providers at VA expense if they are face a long wait or if they live more than 40 miles (64 km) from a VA facility.

The vote came a day after the VA released an internal audit that found more than 57,000 veterans were waiting for initial appointments that could not be scheduled within 90 days, and another 43,000 had appointments that were more than 90 days away. Another 64,000 new enrollees in the VA health care system over the past 10 years had requested appointments that were never scheduled. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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