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Chain of N.H. Pain Clinics May Drop Veterans Choice Patients

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Veterans who receive care for chronic pain through the VA's Veterans Choice program may soon have fewer options for treatment.

The private New Hampshire-based company, PainCare, is once again considering cutting ties with the Veterans Choice program and the company that administers it, Health Net, Inc., because Health Net allegedly continues to delay payments to PainCare doctors. PainCare operates 11 clinics in New Hampshire. 

PainCare attempted to drop Veterans Choice in January because they weren't being paid for their services. After some negotiation, PainCare decided to give the company three months to reform its policies. Those three months have now passed and sources indicate very little progress has been made.

Though there has not yet been an official decision to terminate the relationship, PainCare's Brandon Gray says there is "a list of issues" that will need to be addressed "in order to continue our relationship."

PainCare's billing manager Crystal Brousseau says the Veterans Choice program owes them $50,000. Back in January, outstanding bills totaled $70,000. She describes working with the VA and Health Net as a "continuous administrative struggle."

"We make hours and hours and hours of phone calls, but can't get them to issue the proper authorizations," she says. "When we do get authorizations, they're incorrect or invalid, which makes us have to go back to get additional authorizations."

Manchester VA Director Danielle Ocker says if necessary, the VA will work with PainCare to find appropriate replacement care opportunities for affected veterans.

Health Net declined to answer any of NHPR's questions on the record. In an emailed statement, Health Net said: "Health Net Federal Services' highest priority is the fulfillment of our Veterans Choice program obligations in support of our long-term commitment to the Department of Veterans Affairs and to the veteran community that we are honored to serve. We are firmly committed to timely processing all claims that are submitted by doctors who are eligible to participate in the Veterans Choice program."

PainCare says it will re-evaluate Health Net's progress in a couple of weeks. 

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