A new government report suggests that the government is beginning to pay for medical supplies in some cases, at least when they are not essential.
The Department of Health and Social Services (HHS) is now spending $1,200 a month on medical supplies, which the report suggests are necessary for the public health system to operate smoothly and efficiently.
“It is an important step in moving the U.S. toward a healthier, more efficient health care system,” the report says.
The report was issued by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which provides “independent, nonpartisan analysis of the federal government’s fiscal policymaking.”
The report is based on an analysis of “health care costs, benefits, utilization, and patient safety” by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (OSPTE), which is in charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The report notes that the VA has “a limited ability to directly procure health care supplies, and has been unable to meet this need through its procurement and acquisition activities.”
The VA has already purchased $8 million worth of medical supplies from private companies.
HHS is now paying for supplies directly, with no strings attached.
“To be sure, these items may not be necessary, but they are essential to the VA’s ability to provide essential health care to the American public,” the CRS report says, adding that the cost of purchasing these supplies has “far exceeded its ability to acquire and deliver these supplies.”
A few months ago, the HHS Office of Inspector General found that the department was over-relying on VA-made products.
In an internal report, the VA acknowledged that “some of these items are more than twice as expensive as those made by private companies.”
HHS also has a “programmatic misclassification problem,” according to the report.
It found that HHS was overstating the need for certain medical supplies.
For example, the report said that “over-the-counter pain medications were listed as essential for VA use, while pain and spasticity medication were not.”
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently investigating the problems identified by HHS.
The Office also criticized HHS for “overclassifying” medical supplies to “protect against fraud,” saying that it “failed to recognize that these medications are commonly used in VA hospitals, often in combination with other medicines.”
In an earlier report, CMS found that “the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has not adequately addressed overclassification problems” for the VA, “including a failure to provide information about which items are ‘essential’ to use and the scope of this need.”
The CMS report also pointed out that “many [VA] medical supplies are not available for purchase outside of VA health care facilities, and may not even be used by VA employees.”
HHS has not provided any new data on the total amount of money it is paying for the purchase of these supplies.
The government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The latest report comes at a time when the Trump administration is facing questions about how to fix the VA health system after the VA announced it was facing massive cuts in funding and was facing financial troubles.
The VA was under severe pressure from Congress and other federal agencies, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), to slash its $2.6 billion budget, which was about two-thirds of its budget before the VA was privatized in 2015.
In February, the Trump Administration proposed a $4.5 billion reduction to the Veterans Choice Program (VCP), which allows veterans to receive discounted care through private insurance.
In October, the government announced that it was ending the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and transferring the management of the VA to the U