Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
July 28, 2015

Senators Doubt ‘Astronomical’ CBO Score for VA Health Bill

va health care cbo score bill

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some senators are questioning an ‘astronomical’ but preliminary Congressional Budget Office score for the Senate-passed emergency veterans health bill — while promising to find ways to pay for it in conference with the House.

The CBO said the VA bill could cost $50 billion a year in expanded health benefits, but there were questions Thursday about how the CBO came to that figure.

“I think it’s astronomical because of some of the CBO assumptions, which among other things assumes that every veteran who qualifies now to get VA services … who hasn’t been using the VA, will all start using the VA and they’ll all have their share of health problems,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said. “Probably neither of those two things turn out to be the case.”

“A big challenge now for the conference committee is to really get that number to where it needs to be and to carefully think about what’s mandatory and what’s not,” Blunt added.

Sen. Tom Coburn, who has been involved in crafting the legislation from the beginning, said he would work with the House on a way to pay for whatever the actual costs are.

The Oklahoma Republican called the CBO figure a “wild guess.”

“If the CBO can’t tell us things about the Affordable Care Act, they certainly can’t tell us about this because this has just as many variables,” said Coburn. “It won’t come out of the conference unpaid for, I can tell you that; there will be offsets.”

“I am working with Jeff Miller and we are going to solve the problem and pay for it and this is the start of multiple things that have to happen at the VA,” Coburn said.

House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Jeff Miller, R-Fla., has previously said any final package to provide better access to health care for veterans will have offsets.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was one of only three senators to vote against the veterans’ package on Wednesday afternoon, citing the CBO score. In a Thursday statement, he praised Miller for his commitment to paying for the bill.

“Our veterans deserve solutions to the chronic, systemic problems that exist at the VA, but the bill passed by the Senate yesterday, which was rushed through in an effort to hide the massive price tag from the American people, is not the right answer,” Corker said. “I thank Chairman Miller for his leadership, and I hope the House will improve the bill and pay for it so I can support it when it comes back to the Senate.”

Coburn also said he was reviewing the details of each of the 26 medical facility leases included in the legislation.

“Tulsa [for example] could buy the same space with the same amount of amount of up front money for $14 a foot. They are paying $40 a foot with a $104 riser every year in it. They act like, ‘Well, don’t worry about it. We have plenty of money; we will just spend the money,’ ” Coburn said. “So my staff is digging down on every one of the clinics and when it goes to conference we are going to talk about that stuff.”

An authorization for a Tulsa project was removed before finalizing the Senate bill.

Even if the conferees do locate offsets, the measure may just be the start of the debate, however. Blunt also raised the broader question of where the VA health programs fit within the broader budgetary picture.

“A committed as we are to veterans programs, the VA has been discretionary, which means that every year the Congress has to look at what the VA’s doing and how they’re doing it and appropriate the money,” Blunt said. “I think most of VA is one year in advance, which is good because you never run into any kind of sequester problem or anything.”

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  1. James Harris

    June 12, 2014
    5:10 p.m.

    That value seems nuts from the CBO. And remember there are plenty of veterans with their own healthcare who will never go near the VA, especially now given the latest news. And they may never need to go near the VA for their entire lives.

    Really want to know what’s going on here. The CBO definitely needs to explain itself.

    • aftermidnight

      June 12, 2014
      8:28 p.m.

      The CBO always does explain itself. People say the CBO cost estimate seems high but they have have context, no perspective from which to say that. If people think’s too high pass the bill and take your chances.

      It’s safe to assume that the VA has been underfunded for years, which is why we are in the mess we are in. Just another example of irresponsible austerity on the part of the GOP.

  2. Yonatan YONATAN

    June 12, 2014
    6:53 p.m.

    THERES’ THREE MILLION UNEMPLOYED FAMILIES WHO HAVE BEEN WITHOUT AN UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENSION SINCE LATE LAST DECEMBER. THESE FAMILIES ARE TRULY BROKE, AND BECOMING FINANCIALLY RUINED WITH EACH PASSING DAY. BOTH THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS HAVE UTTERLY FAILED THESE FAMLIES, AND HAVE TURNED THEIR BACKS ON THEM ALREADY, AND JUST WALKED AWAY FROM THE ISSUE. MEANWHILE MORE AND MORE ARE FACING EVICTIONS, HOME FORECLOSURES, BANKRUPTCY, AND HOMELESSNESS, WHILE WAITING FOR THE HELP WHICH DOESN’T COME. HELP AND ASSISTACNE HAS COME FOR THE UKRAINE HOWEVER. CONGRESS PASSED A FOREIGN AID BILL WORTH BILLIONS OF TAX PAYER DOLLARS FOR THAT COUNTRY. I GUESS IT’S ONLY THE POOR AND STRUGGLING HERE THAT THEY REFUSE TO HELP

    • Philip Meyer

      June 13, 2014
      12:06 p.m.

      So, let’s just give a handout to everyone with a sob story?

  3. Denise_in_georgia

    June 14, 2014
    7:23 a.m.

    “I think it’s astronomical because of some of the CBO assumptions, which
    among other things assumes that every veteran who qualifies now to get
    VA services … who hasn’t been using the VA, will all start using the VA
    and they’ll all have their share of health problems,” Missouri GOP Sen.
    Roy Blunt said. “Probably neither of those two things turn out to be the
    case.”

    He is an idiot and has voted for years to deny funding for vet needs – he voted to shut down VA facilities and to reduce services for injured vets in a time of war.

  4. The Savage Hombre

    June 14, 2014
    2:36 p.m.

    Obama is the problem.

  5. Hetero Lingo

    June 15, 2014
    1:53 p.m.

    In this CBS News video we find an introduction to the risk of your identity being stolen because of Obamacare: http://youtu.be/yKcjE6N2Z4c

  6. Al Behrta

    June 22, 2014
    3:46 a.m.

    An intro to the destruction of medical care in these united states by the delusional marxists of the Obama regime: http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-insurance/191005-cancellations-are-coming-for-millions-more

  7. George Allegro

    June 25, 2014
    4:28 a.m.

    With the criminal marxist regime of Hussein Obama, the lies just never cease. Yet another example: http://video.foxnews.com/v/video-embed.html?video_id=3063874884001

  8. Publican

    July 4, 2014
    12:24 a.m.

    For 2014 the total VA budget is 153.8 Billion. Medical care accounts for 57.3 Billion. Most of the budget goes to pay pensions and disability payments. Now they are proposing to add 50 billion more for medical and they keep saying the problem was not a lack of funding.

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