KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Senate Backs Bipartisan Bill To Overhaul Vets’ Health Care System

The Senate measure, which was approved Wednesday by a 93-3 vote and has gained the White House's nod, has elements in common with a version unanimously approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives.   

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Approves Bipartisan VA Overhaul Legislation
A Senate bill passed on Wednesday opens the door to widespread changes in the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system, including allowing more veterans to seek care from providers outside the VA and letting the department's secretary fire senior executives more easily. The bill—a bipartisan compromise struck by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and John McCain (R., Ariz.)—was unveiled last week and in some respects resembles legislation passed Tuesday by the House (Kesling, 6/11).

The Associated Press: Senate Backs Bill To Improve Health Care For Vets
The Senate bill, approved 93-3, makes it easier for veterans who have encountered delays getting initial visits to receive VA-paid treatment from local doctors instead. The measure closely resembles a bill approved unanimously Tuesday in the House, prompting optimism among lawmakers from both parties that a compromise version could be on its way soon to President Barack Obama for his signature. The White House said Wednesday that Obama supports the Senate bill (Daly, 6/11).

Los Angeles Times: Senate OKs VA Reform Bill As FBI Launches Criminal Investigation
The Senate on Wednesday broke through the usual partisan gridlock to swiftly approve legislation aimed at reducing veterans' long waits for healthcare, as the FBI announced that it has launched a criminal probe in the Department of Veterans Affairs scandal. The bill would allow veterans facing long waits at VA facilities to seek care from private doctors, expand the VA secretary's authority to fire staff for poor performance, authorize the department to lease 26 new health facilities in 17 states, including California, and Puerto Rico. It also would provide $500 million for expedited hiring of new VA doctors and nurses (Simon, 6/11).

Politico: Senate Passes VA Reform Bill 
But if the Senate’s bill eventually comes law, there could be a large tab for Washington. The Congressional Budget Office estimated on Wednesday afternoon that increased veterans health-care access could cost the federal government an additional $50 billion a year (Everett, 6/11).

The Hill: Senate Passes Overhaul Of VA In 93-3 Vote
Lawmakers voted 93-3 in favor of a nearly $2 billion bill from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) that gives the VA secretary new authority to fire senior executives and provides veterans greater options for seeking medical care (Matishak and Cox, 6/11).

Reuters:  Senate Passes Bill Aimed At Fixing Veteran Health Care Delays
Among differences between the House and Senate versions are that the House proposes a top-to-bottom review of all aspects of VA's health care system, while the Senate calls for a review of appointment scheduling practices and systems. The Senate version offers protections for VA employees not in the House bill (Lawder and Dunham, 6/11).

In related news -

Des Moines Register:  Docs Willing To Work At VA Should Be Eligible For Loan-Repayment, Iowa Democrat Says
Doctors and nurses who are willing to work at VA hospitals and clinics should be eligible for a national loan-repayment program, Rep. Bruce Braley says. The Iowa Democrat has introduced a bill that would open up the National Health Service Corps to doctors, nurses and other health-providers who go to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs or state veterans' homes. The program now provides scholarships or college-loan repayments to health-care providers who agree to work in "underserved areas," which are mainly in rural America (Leys, 6/11).

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