Two major complaints about healthcare from the Veterans Administration are long travel to Fort Harrison for treatment and inconsistent or nonexistent reimbursement to healthcare providers.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance says they’re aiming to remedy both those problems. TriWest has joined with the VA to administer Patient Centered Community Care (Pc3) and the Veterans Choice Healthcare Program.

The announcement was made by TriWest President and CEO Dave McIntyre on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day.

McIntyre addressed the problem that veterans have, especially in rural areas, who travel hundreds of miles for many hours to receive care at Fort Harrison.

“We together, meaning VA and TriWest with the amazing support of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana and the providers in the state are in the process of finishing the construction of a statewide network of private sector providers and hospitals that will be available to support Fort Harrison and the great people in Helena who are working at the VA. Our job is when you live in the great communities of Montana that are a long ways from the VA that you can actually get the care in the community in which you reside.”

Regarding reimbursement from the VA or health insurance companies to local providers, McIntyre said he learned a lesson from his father, who was a physician.

“The problem is the insurance companies don’t pay their bills and the federal government doesn’t pay theirs either, and I said, what? You mean you did the work and you’re not getting paid? Yes, son, I have to hire these people to get paid for work I’ve already done, and I said that’s nuts.”

McIntyre said as he was starting TriWest, he was hearing about how veterans were being billed personally for work that wasn’t being paid for by a company or the VA, and some were even pursued by collection agencies for payment.

“That’s why we have been on a very aggressive track in the space of paying bills to providers,” he said. “We pay 98 percent of the claims that we receive in less than 30 days. It’s the fundamentals that are what you have to get right to get this to work because if you don’t pay the doctors right and on time, then they have to borrow money, and they may end up saying, you know what? I’m not going to see a veteran again.”

McIntyre said TriWest now has 3,300 providers approved for services.

“In every major market in which veterans reside there are specialists of every type that are approved to deliver services,” he said. “Together, between the VA and ourselves, we will make sure that providers are able to see veterans and that veterans are able to get to the providers, and those are the fundamentals of what we’re all supposed to be doing.”

McIntyre acknowledged the influence and leadership of Montana Senator Jon Tester for helping to bring about the partnership between TriWest and the VA.

Will this be the answer that Montana veterans and their families have been waiting for?

Time will tell.