Daily Briefing

Around the nation: Senate passes veteran health care bill


The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would extend health benefits for an estimated 3.5 million veterans, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia.

  • District of Columbia: The Senate on Tuesday voted 86-11 in favor of a bill that would expand health benefits for an estimated 3.5 million veterans who were exposed to toxic substances while deployed overseas. The bill, which President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law, would be the largest expansion of veterans' health benefits since the Agent Orange Act was passed in 1991. Under the new legislation, any American service member deployed to a combat zone in the past 32 years will be presumed to have been exposed to toxic substances. Over the next decade, the legislation will allocate an estimated $280 billion to treat 23 illnesses linked to exposure to toxic substances while streamlining veterans' access to care. "This bill is the legislation we envisioned when we set out to right wrongs of our toxic-exposed veterans. The PACT Act recognizes that responsibility and it recognizes the cost of war," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Separately, President Biden said, "While we can never fully repay the enormous debt we owe to those who have worn the uniform, today the United States Congress took important action to meet this sacred obligation." Biden added that the legislation "could be the difference between life and death for many suffering from toxic related illnesses." (Adragna/Carney, Politico, 8/2; Lerman, Roll Call, 8/2; Lai, New York Times, 8/2)
  • District of Columbia: In separate letters to the House and Senate, medical groups encouraged Congress to pass the Conrad State 30 and Physician Access Reauthorization Act, which provides incentives for foreign physicians working in underserved communities. Under the bill, the Conrad 30 waiver program, which allows international medical graduates to stay in the United States, would be extended. International medical graduates would have to return to their country of origin for at least two years without the waiver, which means they would not be able to practice in the United States after they complete their residency. "Across practices and specialties, our country is facing a severe shortage of physicians, especially in rural areas," the letter said. "For nearly three decades the Conrad 30 waiver program has helped Americans in rural and underserved areas receive medical care from more than 15,000 high-quality physicians in their local communities." (Schoonover, Becker's Hospital Review, 8/3)
  • District of Columbia: President Biden on Thursday tested positive for the coronavirus again. According to Biden's doctor, Kevin O'Connor, he is still experiencing an "occasional cough," but it is "improving." While President Biden tested negative last week after finishing a five-day course of Paxlovid, he has tested positive for a "rebound" case of Covid-19 since Saturday. The president "continues to feel well," and he "remains fever-free and in good spirits," O'Connor added. "His temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation remain entirely normal. His lungs remain clear." (Gonzalez, Axios, 8/4; Hutzler/Gittleson, ABC News, 8/3)
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