Wall Street Journal Examines Expansion of VA Health Care System
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system -- the Veterans Health Administration -- a "huge experiment in government-run managed care" in which Republican lawmakers are "investing billions of dollars more every year." Since 1995, annual spending on VHA has increased by 58% after inflation, and the number of patients treated doubled to 4.66 million annually in 2004.
VHA "increasingly is part of the safety net for the nation's aging population" as more companies reduce retiree health benefits and lawmakers "struggle to contain" Medicare and Medicaid costs, the Journal reports. In addition, VHA has led the shift toward the use of electronic health records and efforts to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for discounts on prescription drug prices. However, according to the Journal, VHA spending "squeezes other priorities," which has prompted the Bush administration to propose fee increases and more restrictions on eligibility to reduce costs (Rogers, Wall Street Journal, 10/24).