Many veterans eligible for health care through Veterans Affairs (VA) and Medicare seek treatment from both; certain factors determine which services they access from each system. Coordinating patient care between systems must be a policy priority.
The Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System is large, treating more than 5.4 million patients in fiscal year 2005. But 42 percent of veterans are also Medicare-eligible. This study used VA and Medicare data from fiscal years 2003 and 2004–more than 1.9 million patient records–to examine program usage. The focus was whether patients’ medical conditions explained reliance on the VA versus Medicare, beyond what could be explained by factors such as patient characteristics and access.
While some medical conditions do impact where a veteran obtains care, other factors are more fundamental, such as age, distance to a VA facility and the VA priority level. Dual use is common, and data shows them using more services, suggesting they may be more ill. Coordinating care between systems must be a policy priority.