7:53 PM EDT

Jerry Kleczka, D-WI 4th

Mr. KLECZKA. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the chairman of the committee giving me time to explain the amendment, although I do recognize that a point of order does lay against this proposal.

The amendment I offer to the bill would improve veterans' access to prescription drugs by permitting the Veterans Administration to accept the prescriptions written by a veteran's family doctor.

As my colleagues listen to this explanation, they might say, gosh, this is common sense. Why is this not being changed today? Well, the current law mandates that the veteran who is going to get a prescription from the VA has to see his primary doctor. In its wisdom a few years ago, Congress permitted nonservice connected disability veterans access to medical care, specifically the drug benefit. However, because of this law, veterans are having to wait 9 months to a year before they can see a

Veterans Administration doctor. And once they wait that long, naturally, they have to still go to their local pharmacy and pay the full price for their drugs. But once they finally get through the waiting process, the doctor at the VA will examine the veteran and, for the most part, come to [Page: H4703]

the same conclusion that the veteran's family physician came to, and then they get whatever drug is being prescribed.

Well, not only are the veterans being inconvenienced by the long wait, but also the examination by the veteran's physician costs money. It is estimated that each visit to the primary VA doctor, which is duplicative at best, costs about $254. In fact, many times the cost to the veteran's hospital for the VA physician visit is more than the drugs being given to the veteran.

The Inspector General testified before a Senate committee on July 24 of this year, and he indicated their recommendation was that this process should be streamlined. They recommended that the VA seek a statutory change authorizing the VA to fill prescriptions written by a veteran's family doctor.

The thing that is very important to note is Members here, care, that IG indicated this change would save some $1.3 billion. Now, that cost savings can be plowed back into the veterans' health care and buy a lot of health care and clearly a lot of pharmaceutical drugs for veterans.

So, Mr. Chairman, I would hope that the chairman of the subcommittee would drop his request for the point of order. It clearly is appropriate to the bill, especially in light of the fact that this amendment would save the VA budget some $1.3 billion.


7:56 PM EDT

Jerry Kleczka, D-WI 4th

Mr. KLECZKA. Mr. Chairman, I do, and in closing and in response to the point of order being raised by the gentleman from New York, I cannot dispute that. In part there is legislating contained in this amendment. But in large part, and I think the gentleman would agree, if in fact the IG is even close to the mark, saving $1.3 billion in the legislation that the gentleman from New York and the gentleman from West Virginia took so much time to put together, and did such a great job on, would come

in handy for providing payment for these prescription drugs that these veterans are getting.

But I think the gentleman is accurate in his assessment, and I ask the Chair to rule.