VA Cited for Neglecting Follow-Up Treatment for Depressed Vets

VA Cited for Neglecting Follow-Up Treatment for Depressed Vets

10) Veterans Administration Doctor
Wikimedia Commons
By Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times

The embattled Veterans Affairs Department is once again under scrutiny for potentially violating agency guidelines when treating patients—this time, failing to ensure that veterans with depression are receiving sufficient follow-up care after being prescribed anti-depressant medication.

That’s the conclusion of an investigation by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO reviewed patients being treated for depression at six separate VA medical centers and found that after the veterans received anti-depressants, their doctors did not conduct follow-up appointments within four to six weeks, as the VA requires

Related: VA Wastes Millions, But Still Wants More as Vets Wait for Care

In its review, the GAO said that among all patients whose records were reviewed—almost none of them received check ups with doctors in the required time after they were given anti-depressant medication.

"Given the debilitating effect that depression can have on veterans' quality of life, VA's monitoring of veterans with [depression] is critical to ensuring they receive care that is associated with positive health care outcomes," GAO director of health care Randall Williamson said in congressional testimony this week. He went on to criticize the VA for not following its own guidelines to assure veterans receive sufficient treatment.

“This work illustrates, once again, a continuing pattern of VHA's [Veterans Health Administration] noncompliance with its own policies and established procedures,” Randall Williamson, the GAO's director of health care said in congressional testimony last week.

Separately, the GAP flagged the VA’s Behavioral Health Autopsy Program which is used to collect data on veterans that have committed suicide in order to inform policy decisions, saying it is plagued with inaccuracies.

Auditors said that the system had incorrect dates of death—sometimes off by one day, sometimes off by a whole year. The GAO said this made it nearly impossible to assess what kind of treatment they were provided.

Chart of the Week: Lowering Medicare Drug Prices

A growing number of patients are being denied access to newer oral chemotherapy drugs for cancer pills with annual price tags of more than $75,000.
iStockphoto
By Michael Rainey

The U.S. could save billions of dollars a year if Medicare were empowered to negotiate drug prices directly with pharmaceutical companies, according to a paper published by JAMA Internal Medicine earlier this week. Researchers compared the prices of the top 50 oral drugs in Medicare Part D to the prices for the same drugs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, which negotiates its own prices and uses a national formulary. They found that Medicare’s total spending was much higher than it would have been with VA pricing.

In 2016, for example, Medicare Part D spent $32.5 billion on the top 50 drugs but would have spent $18 billion if VA prices were in effect – or roughly 45 percent less. And the savings would likely be larger still, Axios’s Bob Herman said, since the study did not consider high-cost injectable drugs such as insulin.  

Why Craft Brewers Are Crying in Their Beer

		<p>The $85 billion in spending cuts is just $10 million more than what Americans spent on beer in 2011.</p>
Scott Olson/Getty Images
By Michael Rainey

It may be small beer compared to the problems faced by unemployed federal workers and the growing cost for the overall economy, but the ongoing government shutdown is putting a serious crimp in the craft brewing industry. Small-batch brewers tend to produce new products on a regular basis, The Wall Street Journal’s Ruth Simon says, but each new formulation and product label needs to be approved by the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which is currently closed. So it looks like you’ll have to wait a while to try the new version of Hemperor HPA from Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing, a hoppy brew that will include hemp seeds once the shutdown is over.

Number of the Day: $30 Billion

Benis Arapovic/GraphicStock
By The Fiscal Times Staff

The amount spent on medical marketing reached $30 billion in 2016, up from $18 billion in 1997, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and highlighted by the Associated Press. The number of advertisements for prescription drugs appearing on television, newspapers, websites and elsewhere totaled 5 million in one year, accounting for $6 billion in marketing spending. Direct-to-consumer marketing grew the fastest, rising from $2 billion, or 12 percent of total marketing, to nearly $10 billion, or a third of spending. “Marketing drives more treatments, more testing” that patients don’t always need, Dr. Steven Woloshin, a Dartmouth College health policy expert and co-author of the study, told the AP.

70% of Registered Voters Want a Compromise to End the Shutdown

National Zoo closed in due to the partial government shutdown in Washington
KEVIN LAMARQUE
By The Fiscal Times Staff

An overwhelming majority of registered voters say they want the president and Congress to “compromise to avoid prolonging the government shutdown” in a new The Hill-HarrisX poll. Seven in ten respondents said they preferred the parties reach some sort of deal to end the standoff, while 30 percent said it was more important to stick to principles, even if it means keeping parts of the government shutdown. Voters who “strongly approve” of Trump (a slim 21 percent of respondents) favored him sticking to his principles over the wall by a narrow 54 percent-46 percent margin. Voters who “somewhat approve” of the president favored a compromise solution by a 70-30 margin. Among Republicans overall, 61 percent said they wanted a compromise.

The survey of 1,000 registered voters was conducted January 5 and 6 and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.