VA Quietly Stopped Sharing Healthcare Performance Data

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In spite of a 2014 law requiring the Department of Veterans Affairs to report comprehensive statistics to a national database, effective July 1 they simply stopped sharing the information on quality of care at their facilities.

The VA had been providing data for years to the Hospital Compare website , which allowed veterans to compare facilities and make informed decisions about where to seek care.   

The site is run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the Department of Health and Human Services, and includes death and re-admission rates, national averages and other data for measuring care at public and private hospitals around the country.

Congress passed a law in 2014 that required the VA to submit even more detailed data after the wait-time VA scandal broke, where so many veterans died waiting for care, but USA Today reports that the VA confirmed last week it had stopped reporting anything on July 1.

Joe Francis, director of clinical analytics and reporting at the Veterans Health Administration, said lawyers at HHS advised the VA to pull the plug until the two agencies could work out a new deal governing the sharing of information.

“It’s deeply frustrating to us, and it’s our commitment to get back online as soon as we can,” he said.

HHS declined to provide answers to a list of questions from USA TODAY but issued a statement from CMS spokesman Aaron Albright saying the agency is committed to providing additional health care information to consumers.

“We are working closely with the VA to finalize an inter-agency agreement and expect to sign the final agreement very shortly,” Albright said.

In addition, in February the VA wiped clean it’s own site (www.hospitalcompare.va.gov)  that had provided side-by-side comparisons of VA hospitals, leaving the page completely blank.

The excuse for taking it down, according to Francis, was that the site didn’t meet “accessibility requirements” – they said the colors red, green and yellow indicating how well a VA center performed was not accessible to visually impaired people.

Francis claimed the VA is looking for a contractor to “improve” the site, but they have no timeline set to resume reporting the mandated data.

When Congress passed the Choice Act in 2014, the law required the VA and HHS to reach an agreement by February 2015 to expand the data they reported on the Hospital Compare site, but that deadline is long past.   Now, in defiance of the law completely, all reporting has ended.

 

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