VA wants to eliminate copays for outpatient mental health visits

CRISIS
The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing to eliminate copayment requirements for outpatient mental health visits and reduce the copayments for medications dispensed to veterans who are identified as high risk for suicide by a VA clinician. Photo credit VA.gov

The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing to eliminate copayment requirements for outpatient mental health visits and reduce the copayments for medications dispensed to veterans who are identified as high risk for suicide by a VA clinician.

The proposal hopes to encourage outpatient mental health care and reduce any potential barriers associated with seeking it, according to a VA release.

VA published a notice in the Federal Register on Jan. 5, to solicit public feedback to guide the implementation of the new program.

“Research shows increased frequency of outpatient mental health encounters for high-risk veterans reduces their risk of suicide,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “Through these efforts, VA will continue to address this national public health crisis by further eliminating financial burdens on veterans which may negatively influence their engagement in mental health treatment and their critical medication availability.”

There are currently no exemptions from outpatient care copayments for veterans who are at risk for suicide. They have to pay a $15 or $50 copayment for each outpatient visit, depending on whether the visit qualifies as primary care or specialty care.

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The release notes that to decrease the risk of overdose on prescribed medications, prescription-based lethal means safety programs often focus on limiting the supply of medications that may, intentionally or unintentionally, contribute to an overdose. An example of this would be to prescribe a seven-day supply of medication with four refills rather than prescribing one 30-day supply of the medication.

This proposed rule would reduce the financial burden of multiple co-payments associated with both increased outpatient visits as well as more frequent, but limited supply of prescribed medications.

The public notice requests feedback at the Federal Register. The public comment period ends March 7.

More information on lethal means safety and safe medication storage can be found here.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

If you’re a veteran having thoughts of suicide or you know one who is, contact the Veterans Crisis Line 24/7/365 days a year. Call?1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online or text to 838255.