Veterans Affairs Announces Plans To ‘Overhaul’ of Health Care System
The Department of Veterans Affairs today will announce plans to "overhaul" its health care system in an attempt to "shif[t] its focus to outpatient care" and "bring services closer to people who need them," the AP/Arizona Republic reports. The nationwide restructuring will be based on analyses of demographics and services at the nearly 1,200 VA health care facilities across the country. An independent, nine-member panel will make recommendations on "where to cut and where to add" services in specific cities and hospitals in August 2003. The overhaul, recommended by the GAO in 1999, is designed to shift funds from "aging, inefficient facilities" in areas where the number of veterans is declining so that the agency can offer "modern medicine" in communities with a growing number of veterans, the AP/Republic reports. Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. Leo Mackay said, "This is not about the closure of facilities. It's about continuing the change in VA health care and changing it for the better" (AP/Arizona Republic, 6/6). VA spokesperson Phil Budahn added, "We may find ourselves moving in the direction of adding facilities. But at this point, we're not ruling anything out or anything in" (Denver Post, 6/6). Some veterans groups have expressed concern that the restructuring plan will limit some veterans' access to care, the AP/Republic reports. Bruce Parry of the Chicago-based advocacy group Veterans for Unification said, "While they keep saying they're improving services, they are drastically cutting services. The result will be the VA serves fewer veterans. And as people find it less attractive, they will have further excuses for shutting more down in the future" (AP/Arizona Republic, 6/6).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.