Senate bill could double spending on veterans' health

Published on June 17, 2014 at 5:37 AM · No Comments

The proposal is slated to add $35 billion to VA health care spending over the next three years -- mostly from allowing veterans to seek private care. But it could ultimately cost $50 billion per year if more veterans enroll in the system, according to a Congressional Budget Office projection.

The Associated Press: Senate Bill Doubles Spending On Veterans Health 
Spending on veterans' health care could double in three years under the Senate's solution to the long waits experienced by thousands seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics, according to congressional budget experts. Analyzing a bill the Senate passed overwhelmingly last Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimates the measure would add $35 billion over the next three years to the $44 billion the government now spends annually on medical care for veterans (Daly, 6/14).

Modern Healthcare: Senate Proposal To Give Vets Private Care Carries Big Price Tag 
The Senate moved quickly this week to pass a measure that lowers the barrier for veterans to seek health care in private settings, in response to the ongoing wait list scandal at Veterans' Affairs facilities. But now a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the measure will cost $50 billion is fueling speculation and concern about how the measure will be paid for. Roughly 8.4 million veterans already receive health care from the VA, and another 8 million are eligible, but aren't enrolled, according to the CBO. But as word gets out that there is greater access to private care available, not only could those currently getting care at VA hospitals increase their utilization, but those currently eligible and not using it could jump into the system as well. Such a scenario could ultimately lead to the $50 billion-a-year scenario the CBO projects if the legislation becomes permanent, up from the $35 billion the provision is expected to cost over its first three years, the CBO said. Experts are split as to where such funds could come from (Dickson, 6/13).

In other VA News --

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: VA Crisis Was A Long Time Coming
Five years ago, in a meeting with Department of Veterans Affairs officials about a planned reorganization, Vietnam Veterans of America's Rick Weidman took one look at the plan's flow chart and had to stifle a laugh. He said it looked "like an old Kelvinator washing machine with the drum removed." Too many people were in the "policy" side, he explained, and not nearly enough in the "operations." What Weidman calls the "middle muddle" of the VA bureaucracy was, in his mind, tipping the washing machine too much in the wrong direction. Looking back, that moment illustrates why Weidman says he was not surprised at this spring's storm of allegations of long waiting lists and possible corruption at the VA that has led to an FBI investigation (Raasch, 6/14).

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Concerns Raised About Appointment-Scheduling Process At Topeka VA Hospital
The Topeka Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center hasn't been implicated in the waiting-list scandal unfolding across the country. But on Friday, two Republican members of the Kansas congressional delegation, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, said their offices have fielded numerous complaints from veterans in recent months about long-standing appointments being canceled or rescheduled at the last minute (McLean, 6/13).

Baltimore Sun: Md. Vets Have Long Wait For First VA Appointment
Veterans in Maryland scheduling a primary care appointment through the Department of Veterans Affairs for the first time wait an average of 80 days to see a doctor, making the state's system fourth-worst in the nation out of 141 systems reviewed, according to data released by the federal government. An extensive audit made public Monday as part of the agency's effort to confront a national scandal over wait times showed that the VA Maryland Health Care System performed worse on that measure than Atlanta, Dallas and Boston, where wait times averaged 64 days, 60 days and 59 days, respectively (Fritze, 6/14).

 

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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