Advancing the EMS profession

Top News

All News

U.S. Senate Adopts Ambulance, Telehealth Amendments to VA Spending Bill

Oct 26, 2023

The Senate adopted several amendments to a three-bill spending package Wednesday, including a measure blocking the Department of Veterans Affairs from lowering payment rates for ambulances, Lauren Clason reports. Senators are set to wrap up amendments next week on the package (HR 4366), which includes the Military Construction-VA, Transportation-HUD and Agriculture bills.

The amendment from Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee ranking member Jerry Moran and Chairman Jon Tester would prohibit the VA from reducing ambulance reimbursements from the companies' billed charges to the rate that Medicare pays through fiscal 2024. The measure was adopted by voice vote. In September, Tester introduced a bill (S 2757) that would require the VA, among other things, to ensure that new rates would actually cover costs before lowering them.

Other amendments included one from J.D. Vance to bar the Department of Transportation from implementing COVID-19 mask mandates, which was adopted by a vote of 59-38. The chamber also passed by voice vote amendments to dedicate $5.2 billion in VA funds to increasing telehealth capacity and to prioritize telehealth and mental health funding in states with the highest veteran suicide rates. An amendment to require a review of toxic exposure effects on servicemembers who served in Kosovo and another mandating data sharing with state cancer registries also passed by voice vote.

The Senate adopted, 53-45, an amendment from John Kennedy that would prohibit the VA from reporting veterans "deemed mentally incapacitated, mentally incompetent, or to be experiencing an extended loss of consciousness" to the authorities for purposes of seizing their firearms without court authority.