VETERANS’ HEALTH: House OKs Program to Help Rural Vets
The House Veterans Affairs Committee yesterday voted to approve a pilot program which would allow veterans in rural areas to be treated at nearby private hospitals instead of distant Veterans Affairs facilities, CongressDaily/A.M. reports. Pilot programs would be implemented in four rural locations chosen by the VA Department and would limit veteran health services to "basic medical and surgical care." Funding for the program will be limited to $50 million a year for the sites, and the project would expire in September 2005. The bill, which includes pay raises for VA nurses, is designed to improve access to health care for veterans and also make the VA "more responsive to its consumers." However, Chair of the Veterans Affairs health subcommittee Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said that the program was "not an attempt to privatize the VA" (9/14). The pilot program follows an effort by the House earlier this year to expand the retired veteran health plan TRICARE to include prescription drug benefits for veterans (American Health Line, 5/19).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.