Veterans' Health Care:

Observations on VA's Assessment of Hepatitis C Budgeting and Funding

GAO-01-661T: Published: Apr 25, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2001.

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The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) requested and received $195 million for Hepatitis C screening and treatment in fiscal year 2000. VA's budget documentation showed that it had spent $100 million on Hepatitis C screening and treatment, leaving a difference of $95 million between its estimated and actual expenditures. However, GAO's review revealed that the difference was actually much larger--$145 million. VA's documentation showed that only $50 million was used for budgeted activities and $50 million was used for an activity not included in its original budget--treatment of conditions related to Hepatitis C. It appears that VA is unable to develop a budget estimate that can reliably forecast its Hepatitis C funding needs at this time. However, VA's Veterans Health Administration (VHA) appears to be taking reasonable steps to improve future budget estimates and thereby minimize the potential for large differences. Such steps include developing a Hepatitis C patient registry that could provide the critical data needed to improve budgetary estimates. However, this registry could take as long as 15 months to become operational, which suggests that it may not provide budgetary data in time to formulate the 2004 budget. In the meantime, VHA's ongoing efforts to upgrade its data collection systems should help improve budget estimates for fiscal year 2002. These efforts, however, have provided only minimal help in the development of VA's 2002 budget for Hepatitis C spending. As a result, it is not possible to conclude with certainty whether VA's fiscal year 2002 spending estimate of $171 million is appropriate.

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