VA Health CareChanges Needed to Improve Resource Allocation Gao ID: GAO-02-685T April 30, 2002
The Veterans Equitable Resource Allocation (VERA) system allocated $17.8 billion of its $20.3 billion health care budget to 22 regional health care networks in fiscal year 2001. Before Vera resources were allocated to facilities on the basis of their historical expenditures. By aligning resources with workloads VERA shifted about$921 million among VA's networks in fiscal year 2001. VERA's design is reasonable for equitably allocating resources, but improvements could better allocate comparable resources for comparable workloads. VERA's allocations are based primarily on network workload, with adjustments made for factors beyond the control of network management. These include the health care needs of veterans and some local cost differences. VERA's design also protects patients from the effects of network budget shortfalls. However, GAO found that $200 million annually that could be reallocated to better align network resources with workloads. First, VERA's measurement of network workload is not accurate enough to determine each network's allocation because VERA excludes most veterans with higher incomes who do not have service-connected disabilities--about one-fifth of VA's workload. Second, VERA does not accurately adjust for cost differences among networks for differences in patients' health care needs or case mix across networks. GAO also found that the Veterans Administration has not analyzed whether the networks' need for supplemental resources--provided through the National Reserve Fund--is the result of potential problems in VERA, network inefficiency, or other factors. Without such information, VA can neither ensure the appropriateness of supplemental funding nor take corrective action.