Drug Costs Prompting Veterans To Flock To V.A. Facilities
April 8, 2002
Thousands of elderly veterans are swamping the health care system of the federal Veterans Affairs Department in an attempt to hold down their spending on prescription drugs. Since they must first see a V.A. doctor to obtain a prescription to be filled at a V.A. pharmacy, delays in obtaining an appointment with a doctor are stretching into years.
- At a V.A. medical center near St. Petersburg, Fla., for example, 4,429 veterans can look forward to their first doctor appointment in 2005.
- The number of veterans enrolled in the department's sprawling network of clinics hospitals and pharmacies has doubled since the mid-1990s -- to six million.
- The department's pharmaceutical costs have risen over 160 percent in the same period -- to $2.9 billion last year from $1.1 billion in 1996, even though its medical budget has increased just 42 percent.
- Enrollments in clinics in parts of Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas can take months.
Once enrolled, a veteran finds a V.A. that is trimming services to control costs.
Administrators have proposed limiting eligibility, and the co-payment for drugs has been raised slightly for many veterans. The department is also reducing hospital stays, and trying to treat patients in less costly outpatient clinics.
Source: Milt Freudenheim, "V.A. Health Care Strained by Big Wave of Enrollees," New York Times, April 6, 2002.
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