Looming Private Health Insurance Deadline a Challenge for Troubled VA

President Obama will sign a bill this week to begin reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs, kicking off a scramble as the troubled department tries to meet the 90-day deadline Congress set for getting a private health care option up and running.

But analysts said it’ll be a big test to see whether Veterans Affairs officials can even find manufacturers to meet the deadline for printing millions of “choice cards” granting veterans access to private care if they’ve been waiting more than several weeks, or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA facility.

“We don’t know if the current contract holder [for VA identification cards] will be able to supply that new choice card [of] if they’ll have to put a new [request for proposal] out for a new card, a new contract,” said Ray Kelley, the national legislative director at Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Getting that within 90 days might be pretty tough.”

The cards are just one of the deadlines the VA will face under the bill, which Congress wrote to give it a number of chances for oversight over the next six months, including a six-month report on VA staffing levels and an early assessment of the private care option.