WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, spoke today during a hearing with Veterans’ Service Organizations (VSO’s) about his legislation to expand veterans’ access to lifesaving transplant surgeries, which the VA may oppose.
A partial transcript of Cassidy’s remarks is below.
CASSIDY: I’m a doctor. I’m a hepatologist … and in my practice, I took care of a lot of liver transplant patients. And one thing that is clear, the more transplants you do, the better the outcome. Just makes sense. You do five a year, you’re not as good as if you do 150 a year. Right now, the VA has one or two or three or four transplant centers around the nation, but when you look at their statistics, some of them don’t do that many at all. They just don’t. So, you’re traveling 1,000 miles to go to some place that does 20 a year, when you might be able to stay within 100 miles and go to a place that does 150 a year.
Now, I think of the VA as providing primary care, secondary care, tertiary care even, but if you talk about quaternary care, I need a liver transplant, if we’re to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us, we’d want to go to the place that did 150.
Our legislation, which passed by voice vote in the House, in the House committee, would allow the veteran to have the choice of staying locally with a referral from the VA at a transplant center near her or his home, as opposed to going 1,000 miles away. I’m told the VA is going to oppose it, and that disappoints me, because Secretary Shulkin, before he was secretary, said the VA should be about the veteran, not about the VA. I’m told the nature of the opposition is that they want to preserve the program. It’s more important to me that the VA go to some place that does 100 transplants a year than to preserve a program that does only 10 or 15 or 20. Because as a doc, the first priority is the patient.