Walter Reed Neglect Scandal – Financial Implications

With increased number of soldiers being deployed on assignments as part of the Global War on Terrorism and other commitments of the military, the need to address various inefficiencies in the Military Health System (MHS) arises. Having more soldiers returning from such assignments with greater care needs could have adverse implications on the quality of care provided by the already overwhelmed Veterans Health Administration (VHA), if more funding is not provided (Bilmes, 2007). Similarly the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) insufficiency in handling claims has created a backlog that would make it difficult for the institution to handle a higher demand from returning soldiers (Bilmes, 2007). Such inefficiencies increase the already high cost of providing care and paying disability compensation thus bearing a long-term financial effect on the country (Bilmes, 2007).

Costs of provision of military healthcare in the U.S have increased over the years which compounded with the current financial trend could pose enormous financial challenges. Such increases in costs, according to the U.S department of defense taskforce on the future of Military health care (henceforth herein Military Health Care Taskforce), could be attributed to various factors including increased use of services, rising costs of pharmaceuticals and healthcare technology, and the aging of the retiree population (2007). The cost of the healthcare for military personnel was for instance noted to have doubled from $19 billion to $39.4 billion in the six year period from 2001 to 2007 (Military Health Care Taskforce, 2007, p.2). Though the quadrupling of spending in prescription drugs was the main contributor to this increase; other factor such as a constant rate of fees and copayments from beneficiaries irrespective of expanding benefit coverage further fueled the increase in costs (Military Health Care Taskforce, 2007).

With such a rate of growth, the costs of MHS are estimated to be at $64 billion by the year 2015 (Department of Defense, 2007, p.2). Emerging medical needs from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (post traumatic stress disorder – PSTD, and traumatic brain injury) further threaten to push the cost of military health needs to very high levels (“An achievable Vision”, 2007).  Without being appropriately addressed such emerging challenges to existing health systems could lead to high long-term costs with an inefficient system further fueling the increase in healthcare costs (Fassl, 2010). The inefficient practices at the Walter Reeds medical center thus curtail the effectiveness of efforts aimed at addressing unabated increase in cost whose cumulative effect could be the complete collapse of these systems (Fassl, 2010). Go to part 3 here.

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