Patients Wait Seven Months to Visit Physicians at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities, Survey Finds
Patients wait seven months on average to see a primary care physician at Department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities, according to a survey to be released today by national veterans group the American Legion, the AP/Nando Times reports. The survey, based on "anecdotal evidence" from more than 3,100 respondents between November 2002 and Feb. 21, 2003, also found:
- The average wait to see a doctor after arriving at a VA clinic is 1.6 hours.
- Approximately 58% of respondents said they had an appointment postponed by the VA, with an average wait of an additional 2.6 months.
- About 11% of 2,800 respondents said they were denied long-term care.
Dr. Robert Roswell, the VA undersecretary for health, said, "There's no question that waiting times are a significant problem, but we're trying to resolve them." Roswell said the VA will take a "number of steps" to resolve the issue, including ensuring that all primary care physicians carry a full load of 1,200 patients, instituting home care visits by health workers, starting interactive Web sites to allow patients to speak with physicians, installing home monitoring equipment connected to VA heath facilities and starting group appointments for patients with similar diseases, such as diabetes. If President Bush's $27.5 billion budget request for VA in fiscal year 2004, a 7.7% increase over the current fiscal year, is approved, the VA also wants to hire an additional 1,000 physicians and improve salaries, the AP/Times reports (Margasak, AP/Nando Times, 3/3). Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi in January proposed that to reduce waiting times, some veterans with higher incomes who do not have military service-related disabilities or health problems will no longer be able to begin receiving treatment at VA health care facilities (California Healthline, 1/17). Principi has also proposed increasing out-of-pocket costs for veterans with higher incomes, including an annual enrollment fee of $250 for veterans with conditions not related to duty; increasing primary care copayments from $15 to $20; and increasing drug copays $7 to $15 (AP/Nando Times, 3/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.