VA looks to streamline prosthetic spending

The Department of Veterans Affairs' spending on prosthetics has nearly doubled since 2007, and the agency is looking to cut costs in a move that could affect devicemakers, Bloomberg reports.

To save money, the VA is shifting the task of ordering many prosthetics from medical staff to contract workers, which some vets say could delay or prevent patients from getting the devices they need. And a few industry heavies might be affected, too: In 2010, the VA spent about $3 million with Boston Scientific ($BSX) and around $5 million with Medtronic ($MDT), according to Bloomberg.

But agency reps say the new procedure won't burden patients. If a doctor says a vet needs a specific device, the VA will order it, agency representative Norbert Doyle told a House committee. Instead, the move is designed to streamline the agency's procurement system, which the VA says is broken. In 2010, the VA overpaid for 23% of its prosthetic limbs, according to a March report by the VA inspector general, wasting $2.2 million in the process.

Some vets worry that the new procedure will be too impersonal, substituting the one-on-one relationship between patient and clinician with more bureaucracy. "This system may be great for buying cinder blocks and light bulbs, but it's certainly not appropriate for medical care," retired Army Captain Jonathan Pruden told Congress, as quoted by Bloomberg.

And some lawmakers, like Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), aren't convinced either. "I'm all for saving taxpayer money, but we're not going to balance this budget on the back of people who lost limbs serving their country," he said at the hearing.

- read the Bloomberg story

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