December 19, 2015
Congress Passes Funding Legislation with ASA-Supported VHA Nursing Handbook Language
On Friday, December 18, the House and Senate both passed H.R. 2029, a $1.15 trillion omnibus appropriations bill, which will fund the government through FY2016. The bill passed the House on a vote of 318-109 and the Senate on a vote of 65-33. The legislation will now go to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it. In addition to funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the legislation includes ASA-supported report language addressing the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Nursing Handbook.
The omnibus spending bill includes a $2 billion increase to NIH for a total funding level of $32.1 billion. The FDA also received a funding boost to $2.72 billion. Congress once again withheld funding from the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an unelected and unaccountable board created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that ASA has opposed.
Similar to provisions passed in the Fiscal Year 2015 funding legislation, this bill includes language encouraging the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to engage both external and internal stakeholders in the development of the proposed VHA Nursing Handbook, which would eliminate physician-led anesthesia within VHA facilities. Key language also requests that VA work to ensure that the Handbook does not conflict with handbooks “already in place within the VHA” - a reference to the current Anesthesia Service Handbook that directs team-based, physician-led anesthesia care.
The language reads:
Nursing handbook.—The Committee understands that the VHA Nursing Handbook is currently under review. The Committee encourages VHA to seek input from internal VA program offices and external professional stakeholders, prior to possible regulatory action and submission to the Under Secretary for Health for final approval. The Committee believes all possible outreach efforts should be used to communicate the proposed changes, to gather public comment, and to collaborate with Congress, stakeholders, VA nursing staff, and external organizations. Finally, the Committee requests that VHA ensure that any changes to handbooks within VHA do not conflict with other handbooks already in place within VHA.
Find out how your Senators and Representative voted or learn more about the implications of HR 2029 here.