Veterans Affairs Health Care System Reforms Examined
The Washington Post on Monday examined how the Department of Veterans Affairs health system has "undergone a dramatic transformation" over the past decade, leading some researchers to consider it a "lesson in how the nation's troubled health care system might be able to heal itself." As part of its overhaul plan, the VA health system implemented an electronic medical records system and began to emphasize preventive care.
Outcomes at the VA health system are better than those for Medicare and most private health plans for some quality measures, including diabetes care, managing high blood pressure and heart attack care, according to the Post. Since 1995, the number of patients seeking care through the VA health system has doubled to 5.2 million, while VA eliminated about 12,000 staff positions, opened hundreds of outpatient clinics and reduced per patient costs by about half. In addition, VA plans to allow patients to access their medical records over the Internet later this year.
However, despite improvements, VA officials have voiced concerns that that budget constraints are forcing some veterans to wait months for appointments. The Bush administration in June revised its budget request for VA health care programs for fiscal year 2006, increasing the department's health care budget by about $2 billion (Gaul, Washington Post, 8/22).