Senators Collins, King Introduce Legislation to Extend ARCH Program for Five Years

The bill would allow the ARCH program to continue operating at five sites in the U.S., including Cary Medical Center in Caribou, through 2021

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King introduced legislation today that would extend the Access Received Closer to Home (ARCH) program for an additional five years.  Absent congressional action, the pilot program will expire on August 7, 2016.

Senators Collins and King are longtime champions of the ARCH program, which provides rural veterans with local access to the quality health care they have earned through their service to our nation.  The ARCH program operates at five pilot sites across the country, including Aroostook County, where the program is located at Cary Medical Center in Caribou.

“The ARCH program has made such a positive difference for our veterans in Northern Maine.  Preserving this local access to health care is one of my top priorities,” said Senator Collins.  “I cannot overstate how satisfied veterans are with the ARCH program in Maine.  It provides high-quality health care to veterans in the area where they live, close to their families, and it is cost-effective.  Our legislation will extend this vital and effective program for five more years and allow for further evaluation of its value at that time.”

“Our nation’s veterans deserve easy and convenient access to high-quality health care – and that’s exactly what the ARCH program delivers,” Senator King said. “And when a program works so well, as many veterans across The County have told me, it only makes sense to continue it. That’s why the legislation we’re introducing will extend the ARCH program for another five years. I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Collins to see that Maine’s veterans receive the best care in a timely manner.”

The ARCH program has been operating at Cary Medical Center in Caribou since 2011.  According to Cary Medical Center, the program serves more than 1,300 local veterans and has provided in excess of 17,000 medical appointments since its inception.  More than 90 percent of veterans participating in ARCH are overwhelmingly satisfied with their access to care and the medical services they receive.  Without this partnership, veterans in Northern Maine would have to travel up to 600 miles roundtrip to access care at the Togus VA Hospital in Augusta.

The VA is seeking to consolidate its various community care programs, including ARCH, into a revised version of Veterans Choice Program. While the original Choice Program was intended to improve veterans’ access to health care, more than half of eligible Maine veterans have experienced difficulties accessing care through this troubled program.

Last month, Senators Collins and King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin sent a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald regarding the implementation of the Choice Program.  The letter urged Secretary McDonald to ensure that all veterans in Maine receive timely care, continue the successful ARCH program, and incorporate the successes of that program into the VA’s larger community care model.

In addition, last October, Senators Collins, King, and Jerry Moran (R-KS) wrote to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, urging him to provide support for the crucial ARCH program for veterans who live in rural communities.

 

The text of the bill can be found HERE.