KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Poll: Fixing Vets’ Health Care High Priority

Elsewhere, a senator defends his vote against legislation to try to improve the VA's health care, and The Associated Press looks at doctor's appointment wait times for all Americans.

Politico: Poll: Fixing VA Health Care Top Issue
The most widespread legislative concern for Americans is improving health care for veterans, a new poll says. According to a Gallup poll released Friday, 87 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important for the White House and Congress to address health care services for veterans. Among the nine options presented in the survey, improving care for veterans scored 15 percent higher than the second-place issue, equal pay legislation for women (Topaz, 6/13).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ron Johnson Defends Vote Against VA Funding
In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Oshkosh, defended his vote against a bipartisan measure to address scheduling problems at Veterans Affairs facilities but vowed to continue to work to fix what he called a broken system. "The finest among us deserve the best quality health care system," Johnson said. "They need to be able to access it and access it in time." On Wednesday, Johnson was one of only three Senators to vote against the legislation that would allow the VA to contract with private medical facilities, enabling veterans facing long waits to get quicker treatment. The VA would also be able to use $500 billion from its current budget to hire more medical staff (Glauber, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Outside The VA, Waits For Doctors Can Vary Widely
It’s not just veterans who sometimes have to wait for health care. Depending on where you live and what kind of care you want, in parts of the country it’s not always easy for new patients to get a quick appointment. Need routine primary care? The average wait to see a family physician for the first time ranged from 66 days in Boston to just five days in Dallas, according to a survey in 15 large cities by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins. And doctors are bracing for new demand from millions of people newly insured through the federal health care law (Neergaard, 6/13).

States, too, are trying to address the problems at the VA in their own ways --

Texas Tribune: Perry Proposes Fix For Texas Vets Health Care
Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday announced that the state has reached agreements with health facilities to provide care for veterans who cannot get timely treatment from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Now, he’s asking federal officials to approve the plan designed to help the 1.7 million veterans living in Texas. The U.S. House and Senate this week both passed bills that would help veterans access health care outside the VA system if they cannot get a prompt VA appointment or do not live near a VA clinic (Edelman, 6/12). 

Texas Tribune: Vets Discuss Wait Times At Senate Committee Hearing
Georgia Hernandez says her father’s medical care at VA clinics in recent months had been mired by long wait times for appointments that left him with no other option than to seek care at a Houston hospital. It was there that doctors discovered George Barraza, a Vietnam War veteran, had liver cancer and that he was suffering from hepatitis C and cirrhosis. After doctors ran several tests and sent Barraza and his daughter back to the VA, they were told to come back two months later, but Barraza died before his appointment. Hernandez was among several who testified before the committee at the Port of Houston in Pasadena. Committee members collected information from veterans and state officials who work with the veteran community as they prepare to task the Texas Veterans Commission with assisting veterans in obtaining medical services and filing complaints for long wait times (Ura, 6/12). 

MinnPost: Despite Audit's Red Flags, Vets Give Minnesota's VA Clinics High Marks
While Minnesota Veterans Affairs officials anxiously seek an explanation why a federal audit identified the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and the Rochester VA clinic as trouble spots needing more review, many Minnesota veterans are praising the state’s VA medical facilities. Rank-and-file vets and those employed by county Veterans Services offices throughout the state said they’ve received superb care from the Minneapolis VA hospital. And Twin Cities medical professionals who work closely with the Minneapolis system say providers offer solid care to patients (Cronin and Henry, 6/12).

McClatchy: Fla. Lawmakers Deride VA For Problems But Counsel Caution On Overhaul
A bipartisan collection of Florida lawmakers piled on the Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday in a special delegation meeting – although one of the most common refrains heard was some variation of “the VA does many things well.” About 20 representatives from both sides of the aisle took testimony from veterans groups and from an official of the VA’s Florida health operations. The VA has been caught in a scandal over scheduling practices that hid how long veterans actually waited to see their doctors (Adams, 6/12)

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