KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Deal Said To Address VA’s Short- And Long-Term Needs

Negotiators on Sunday reported reaching an agreement, which is expected to authorize billions of dollars in emergency spending to bring more physicians, nurses and clinic sites to the Veterans Affairs system. Legislation is to be unveiled today. Lawmakers have only about five working days before the August break to finalize the agreement.  

Politico: Deal Reached On VA Reforms
Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Jeff Miller have reached an agreement to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to an aide briefed on the matter. The legislation, which is to be unveiled Monday, will touch on "both the short-term and long-term needs of the VA," the aide said (French, 7/27).

The Associated Press: After 6 Weeks, Finally A Deal On VA Health Care
The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have scheduled a news conference Monday afternoon to unveil a plan expected to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to obtain outside care (Daly, 7/28).

The Washington Post: House, Senator Negotiators Reach Deal On Veterans Bill 
Aides said that Sanders and Miller had worked out final language on the agreement, which would be circulated among lawmakers on Monday ahead of the formal announcement. One House aide, not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, said that the final agreement more closely mirrors a Senate measure overwhelmingly approved by Democrats and Republicans last month (O’Keefe, 7/27).

The Washington Post’s Federal Eye: The New VA-Reform Deal, And How The Costs Shrank Over Time
After a weekend of talks, House and Senate negotiators say they have reached a deal to help the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs address extensive wait times at VA medical centers, one of the root causes of the agency’s recent scheduling scandal. Lawmakers now have about five working days to recommend changes and vote on the agreement before Congress begins its August recess. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who lead the Senate and House veterans affairs committees, respectively, will try to round up support for sending the measure to President Obama before then (Hicks, 7/28).

The New York Times: Lawmakers Reach Deal On A Fix for V.A.’s Health Care System
Talks on the legislation had grown acrimonious last week, particularly over the amount of spending that would be required, but lawmakers were also under enormous pressure to reach a deal before Congress begins a monthlong recess later this week. Officials on Sunday did not outline specific details of the agreement, or the cost, which is expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars (Oppel Jr., 7/27).

Los Angeles Times: VA Healthcare: Tentative Deal Reached In Congress
Congressional negotiators have reached a tentative agreement on legislation to bolster healthcare funding and reforms at the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs, salvaging a deal after talks imploded last week. The accord comes none too soon: Lawmakers are poised to leave town at the end of the week for the long August break. A stalemate could politically damage the already unpopular Congress (Mascaro, 7/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Reaches Deal To Help Fix VA
One primary disagreement stemmed from the aspect of the bills that would provide an injection of funding to the VA to make other immediate fixes at the department, including expanding allowances for veterans to receive care from non-VA doctors. Mr. Miller said last Thursday he was willing to provide $10 billion, while Mr. Sanders said he wanted the bill to authorize as much as $25 billion. Funding became an even more central topic to the negotiations when Sloan Gibson, the acting VA secretary said last Wednesday at a House hearing the department needs $17.6 billion over the next three years to address issues like hiring more doctors and nurses (Kesling, 7/27).

Bloomberg: Veteran Hospital Aid Deal Said To Be Reached By Lawmakers
Sanders on July 24 accused Republicans of being "not serious about negotiations," while Miller said Sanders had "moved the goal posts." The VA has a $160 billion budget and runs the nation’s largest integrated health-care system. An internal audit in June showed that more than 120,000 veterans hadn’t received a medical appointment or were waiting more than 90 days for care. That number was cut to about 42,400 by July 1, VA data show (Wallbank and Bender, 7/28). 

The VA deal is only one of the challenges facing Congress before its five-week recess:

The Wall Street Journal: Congress Set To Leave A Full Plate
Congress loves a deadline. But this year, even that may not be enough. With just a week left before the start of a five-week August recess, it is increasingly likely that Congress will wrap up for the summer having cobbled together only the bare minimum to keep the government functioning without addressing a list of expiring laws and a pileup of potential national crises. … The two chambers, for example, haven't figured out how to respond to the surge of Central American families crossing the southern border. Lawmakers also had struggled over a bill aimed at mitigating mismanagement and long wait times at Veterans Affairs hospitals, though spokesmen for the top negotiators said Sunday that a deal had been reached (Peterson, 7/27).

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