Maine's hospitals are making progress in collecting more than $42 million in outstanding payments from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but 2nd District Congressperson Bruce Poliquin said the government can do better.
Poliquin, a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, met Friday with several Maine hospital representatives in Bangor to discuss the payment backlog, due to the facilities for veterans healthcare services.
"The Veterans Administration has 385,000 employees, it's a huge bureaucracy," Poliquin said. "And there are about 128 separate computer systems that have been developed over the years and, frankly, it's to keep these pockets of VA employees employed over the years. So these computer systems don't talk with each other, so to try to get these bills paid on a timely basis is very, very difficult."
Lisa Harvey-McPherson, a lobbyist for Eastern Maine Healthcare, said that her organization's member hospitals began treating VA patients several years ago.
"As we increase care in rural communities and specialty services at EMMC, we found ourselves fundamentally challenged to get the bills paid, so we were owed $15 million," said Harvey-McPherson. "Now today it has improved, we're owed $8.6 million."
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican, and Ryan Lilly, state director at Togus VA Medical Center, also attended the Poliquin briefing.