Health care reform bill kills VA hospital overhaul, says study
In September, the House passed a bipartisan bill that would make a $2.1 billion cut to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and increase funding for the American Red Cross.
It would also prevent the VA from spending any more money on an ambitious new medical research facility at Johns Hopkins University.
But it didn’t go nearly far enough.
The bill also would cut $2 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would mean the NIH’s entire budget would be cut by $4.6 billion.
The new cuts would take effect in 2023.
The new law has been criticized by a number of prominent researchers and advocates who worry that the NIH would not have enough funding to continue research into new ways to treat and prevent disease and that there will be no funding for more than 20 years for research into infectious disease.
“There is no doubt that the cuts will hurt the health of veterans,” said Robert Wood Johnson IV, a professor of medicine at Columbia University, in a statement last week.
Dr. David Schlesinger, a co-author of the new bill, said the NIH is still a critical part of our national health system and should be funded for its full cost.
“We are disappointed that the House of Representatives has chosen to eliminate the NIH, a great institution and an important part of this nation’s healthcare system,” Schlesingers said in a press release.
“However, the Senate has not acted to repeal the VA, and we are hopeful that the Administration will work with Congress to restore funding for our great institution.”
The House bill would also eliminate a provision that allows the VA to transfer up to $300 million from the federal Emergency Management Agency (EMEA) for emergency medical services, a move critics said would allow the VA “to take advantage of the $2,500 rebate that is available to private hospitals for ER visits.”
The VA said the rebate was never used to cover the cost of ER visits.
In addition, the bill would eliminate funding for a program called the “Vets-First” initiative that helps vets find and retain doctors who specialize in their health conditions.
According to the NIH Office of Inspector General, the initiative helped vets save $9 billion over the last five years.
Schlesinger said in the press release that the VA was still committed to making health care coverage a priority and he is hopeful that Congress will address these issues with the administration.
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