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
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.
Health care spending in the U.S. will grow at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent from 2017 through 2026, according to new estimates published in Health Affairs by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The projections mean that health care spending would rise as a share of the economy from 17.9 percent in 2016 to 19.7 percent in 2026.
Margot Sanger-Katz and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times: “The deal struck by Democrats and Republicans on Monday to end a brief government shutdown contains $31 billion in tax cuts, including a temporary delay in implementing three health care-related taxes.”
“Those delays, which enjoy varying degrees of bipartisan support, are not offset by any spending cuts or tax increases, and thus will add to a federal budget deficit that is already projected to increase rapidly as last year’s mammoth new tax law takes effect.”
Congress passed a law in 2015 requiring the IRS to use private debt collection agencies to pursue “inactive tax receivables,” but the financial results are not encouraging so far, according to a new taxpayer advocate report out Wednesday.
In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received $6.7 million from taxpayers whose debts were assigned to private collection agencies, but the agencies were paid $20 million – “three times the amount collected,” the report helpfully points out.
Goldman Sachs economists see the tax bill adding 0.3 percentage points to GDP growth in 2018 and 2019 while JP Morgan forecasts a similar gain of 0.3 percentage points next year and 0.2 percentage points the year after.
Goldman’s analysts add that federal spending, which is likely to grow more quickly next year than it has recently, will bring the total fiscal boost to around 0.6 percentage points for 2018 and 0.4 percentage points in 2019.
Both banks see deficits likely rising above $1 trillion, or about 5 percent of GDP, in 2019.