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Congress Advances Emergency Veteran Health Care Legislation

June 13, 2014—The Senate June 11 voted (93-3) to pass “emergency” legislation to improve veterans’ access to health care following excessive wait times at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act (S.2450) is a compromise between proposals by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Senate VA Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Among other provisions, S. 2450 would allow veterans experiencing long wait times or living 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic to see Medicare providers or use federally qualified health centers, Department of Defense facilities, or Indian Health Centers [see Washington Highlights, June 6]. A conference of the S. 2450 and several House VA bills is expected.

The House June 10 passed similar legislation to allow veterans access to health care outside the VA. The Veteran Access to Care Act of 2014 (H.R. 4810) is sponsored by House VA Committee Chair Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) who has said that any final package to provide better access to health care for veterans will have offsets.

While the VA is expected to use $500 million in unobligated VA funding, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting provisions to require timely treatment of eligible veterans and allow some to see private doctors would increase mandatory spending by roughly $35 billion over the next 10 years. CBO also predicts that veterans would ultimately seek additional care that could cost the federal government about $50 billion a year. Some senators have expressed doubt over that estimate as it assumes every eligible veterans will seek care.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) who voted against the Senate bill citing CBO’s score praised Chairman Miller’s statement, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) who has worked with Sen. McCain on the Senate legislation said he would work with the House to find a way to pay for the legislation.


Matthew Shick, JD
Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
Telephone: 202-862-6116


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806