H.R. 1016: Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009

H.R. 1016

Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009

Date
October 7, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

H.R. 1016 is being considered under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA) on February 12, 2009. The House passed H.R. 1016 on June 23, 2009 by a vote of 409-1. The bill on the floor Wednesday, October 7, 2009, is the Senate passed version of the bill.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1016 includes a sense of Congress "that the provision of health care services to veterans could be more effectively and efficiently planned and managed if funding was provided for the management and provision of such services in the form of advance appropriations."

H.R. 1016 would authorize funding for the following Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) programs: Medical Services, Medical Support and Compliance, and Medical Facilities. Starting in FY 2011, funding would be authorized both for the fiscal year as well as the next fiscal year, sanctifying the use of so-called advance appropriations diverting the appropriations process.

The bill requires an annual report to Congress, not later than July 31st of each year, on the sufficiency of VA's resources for the next fiscal year.

Furthermore, the bill would require the Comptroller General (GAO) to conduct a study and report to Congress on the adequacy and accuracy of VA baseline model projections for health care expenditures not later than 120 days after the submission of the President's budget and whether or not the relevant components of the budget request are consistent with the estimates of the Department of Veterans Affairs for the provision of medical care and services.

The bill would also require the VA report to Congress, not later than 90 days after enactment, on plans for improving VA's budget model to better estimate future costs and demand, and descriptions of the barriers to implementing an advance appropriation.

 

Background

According to CRS, an advance appropriation means appropriation of new budget authority that becomes available one or more fiscal years beyond the fiscal year for which the appropriations act was passed (that is beyond the budget year).  For example, if the following language appeared in an appropriations act for FY2010, it would provide an advance appropriation for FY2011: "For medical services, $30,854,000,000 to become available on October 1, 2010 (the start of the FY2011)." Under the current scoring guidelines, new budget authority for an advance appropriation is scored in the fiscal year in which the funds become available for obligation. In this example, the budget authority would be recorded in FY2011.

Advanced appropriations count against the budget cap for the year in which they become available-FY 2011 in this case-but not in the year the appropriation is made.  As such, advanced appropriations are often employed as a budgetary "gimmick" to hide dramatic increases in spending in later years. 

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing the bill would cost almost $187 billion over the 2010-2014 period, assuming appropriation of the necessary amounts. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues.