George E. Norcross III, chairman of the board of Cooper University Health Care, told NJBIZ he expects several thousand veterans in South Jersey to take advantage of the “Cooper Veterans VIP Priority” program — which will provide same-day primary care to area veterans — that Cooper is launching July 1.
Norcross said care will be provided regardless of a veteran’s ability to pay. In response to the Veterans Affairs scandal of long waits endured by veterans seeking medical care, Congress is working on legislation to provide federal money to allow veterans to use civilian hospitals.
Norcross said Cooper isn’t waiting for Congress.
“We are doing this regardless” of what might emerge from Washington, D.C., in response to the scandal, in which VA officials were found to have falsified records to mask long wait times at VA hospitals.
Norcross said Cooper’s program is open to the 130,000 veterans living in the seven southern New Jersey counties. He said many have private health insurance or may be covered by other programs such as Medicare. He said Cooper will welcome vets who only have access “to an inadequate VA system.”
He said Cooper will “provide them with same-day primary care, and this will also include our MD Anderson Cancer Center. They will avoid the needless waits.”
According to a recent audit of the VA health system, New Jersey veterans face an average of nearly 25 days to wait for primary care and 47 days for specialty care.
Norcross said the veterans who come to Cooper “probably will be those who do not have any other coverage” besides the VA. He said Cooper will care for them whether they can pay or not: “That is our promise and our pledge.”
The new program, which will begin July 1, includes:
• Same-day primary care appointments for veterans regardless of their health
• Dedicated navigators to coordinate care.
• A focused website detailing services and allowing online questions and scheduling.
• Preventive health care services, including cancer screening in collaboration with the
MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.
• Screenings for other high-risk conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary
disease and vascular disease.
• Care coordination for substance abuse issues.
Cooper announced the program Tuesday at a news conference attended by Bernard Epworth, former N.J. state commander, Jewish War Veterans, and member of the N.J. Veterans Hospital Task Force; John Chovanes, Cooper trauma surgeon and a member of the United States Army Reserve Medical Corps; the Rev. Floyd White, director of Camden County Veteran Affairs; and Adrienne Kirby, chief executive of Cooper University Health Care.
“I am so pleased that Cooper is taking the lead to ensure that the brave men and women who defend our freedom can, and should, receive high quality, timely health care,” said Epworth.
“Our mission at Cooper is to serve, to heal, and to educate, and we are committed to providing world-class care on a timely basis for our veterans,” said Kirby. “It’s the right thing to do for the courageous men and women who have so unselfishly served our country.”
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