VA Proposes New Rule for Veterans’ Health Care Appointments
The Department of Veterans Affairs on Friday announced new rule requiring VA facilities to schedule appointments within 30 days of a request by veterans with service-related injuries, the AP/Washington Times reports. If an appointment is unavailable within 30 days, facilities must arrange care at another VA facility or contract out for care, VA Secretary Anthony Principi said. Veterans needing emergency medical care will continue to be treated immediately under the new rule. Under the previous policy, veterans with service-related injuries who did not have severe disabilities had to wait for appointments like other veterans. The VA said that it has made progress in reducing the wait times for appointments at its facilities. Phil Budahn, a VA spokesperson, said that the number of veterans waiting more than six months for primary care appointments has dropped from 300,000 in July 2002 to about 30,000 currently. However, John Brieden, national commander of the American Legion, said, "What they are doing is admitting that they can't do it for everybody they are supposed to do it for, so they must put priority on some folks and tell others, 'Gee, we can't see you right now'" (AP/Washington Times, 1/3).
The Bush administration is considering "dramatic increases" in copayments on prescription drugs filled through Tricare, according to Pentagon budget documents, the Virginian-Pilot reports. The proposed changes would increase copays for military retirees from $3 to $10 for a 90-day supply of a generic drug and from $9 to $20 for brand-name prescriptions filled by mail. In addition, retirees would be charged $10 for generic and $20 for brand-name drugs that military hospitals currently dispense free of charge. A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the proposed increase, calling it "pre-decisional," according to the Virginian-Pilot. Veterans groups have called on their members to call and write letters to the White House and members of Congress to protest the changes (Eisman, Virginian-Pilot, 1/1).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.