Democrats on Wednesday unveiled a bill that aims to fix an issue that has stymied efforts to make sure drug costs are met for millions of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The legislation, introduced by Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, aims to bring the federal government’s costs of prescription drugs for PTSD to a level that could be shared with veterans who’ve spent more than a year on the battlefield.
The effort, which is expected to be discussed by lawmakers at a hearing Thursday, comes as President Donald Trump is considering the introduction of a bill aimed at ending the cost of prescription drug treatment for veterans.
It’s a critical step in the push to address what the Trump administration says are urgent needs for veterans with post-disarmament anxiety and depression.
The Trump administration has repeatedly said the VA must “take steps to address the significant gap in prescription drug spending between its medical facilities and its patients.”
The bill introduced Wednesday by Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, and DeMinck, a Republican from South Carolina, is expected in the Senate this week.
It would require the VA to include in the VA’s cost of care a set of measures to make veterans who receive VA treatment the beneficiaries of the cost-sharing.
It would also provide the VA with financial incentives to help ensure that the VA treats veterans who are the beneficiaries, rather than those who were diagnosed with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or post-surgical depression.
The measure would also require the government to reimburse veterans who have spent more time on the front lines than a veteran with PTSD who received VA treatment.
It is a step toward fixing a $1.4 billion “poverty line” in the Veterans Health Administration’s “pay to wait” program.
The measure would require payments to veterans for the “first four weeks” of their service.
The first four weeks of the program is not counted as an amount that could apply to VA treatment and was designed to be offset by the cost sharing.
It also would require VA hospitals to provide veterans with medication, a step that could cost up to $100 per month per patient.
The VA is also looking at ways to improve the quality of care for veterans who need to be on a drug regimen to reduce their drug costs.
VA leaders said last week that the program has a backlog of prescriptions for some veterans who were not covered by the “pay-to-wait” program or who were denied access to VA care because of their PTSD diagnosis.
The new legislation also would make changes to the VA pay for outpatient prescription drug costs and would create a Veterans Health Care Improvement Fund to assist veterans.