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Senate Panel Seeks to Cut Veterans’ Health Care Costs

Associated Press

A series of measures aimed at reducing the $8.8-billion annual cost of veterans’ medical care was approved unanimously Wednesday by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.

The panel voted also to limit new Veterans Administration hospitals to 700 beds and, as a quality control measure, to require the VA to keep detailed statistics on hospital deaths resulting from heart surgery and heart and kidney transplants.

‘Better Service’ Seen

Sen. Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska), the committee chairman, said that the bill “will mean more and extended health care and better service” for veterans.

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The VA operates 277 hospitals and nursing homes for 28 million American veterans. In addition, there are 226 VA outpatient facilities and 187 centers for Vietnam veterans with readjustment problems. In 1983, 2.9 million veterans took advantage of VA health care.

The current federal budget includes $8.8 billion for VA medical care, plus $568 million for construction or renovation of hospitals.

President Reagan has requested more than $200 million in additional VA medical construction funds and $300 million more for veterans’ health care in fiscal 1986, which starts Oct. 1.

In a cost-cutting step, the Senate panel proposed a pilot project in 10 communities that would permit the VA to contract out home health-care services as a substitute for hospital care for certain ailments. For instance, a veteran who suffers a stroke might be provided a helper to cook, clean and care for him, instead of entering a VA medical facility.

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Lower Cost for Home Care

Also, the VA might pay for some mentally ill veterans to live in halfway houses instead of mental institutions. Home care is estimated to be about 40% less expensive than hospital care.

Estimates of the total savings from the Senate panel’s proposal were unavailable


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