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VA cost-cutting idea wins contest

By Ed O'Keefe

A Veterans Affairs employee's idea to allow veterans to take leftover medication home with them when they leave the hospital has won a contest designed to pick the best government cost-saving idea.

Nancy Fichtner, a fiscal program support clerk at the VA Grand Junction Medical Center in Colorado, will meet with President Obama on Dec. 21 to present her idea. Obama will then include the idea in his FY'11 budget proposal.

Obama in April had asked federal employees to submit their cost-savings ideas during one of his Saturday radio/Internet addresses. More than 38,000 federal workers submitted ideas to the Office of Management and Budget's SAVE Award contest earlier this fall.

The OMB narrowed the pool of ideas down to four and put them up for a vote; more than 84,000 votes were cast in the final round of balloting this week. Fichtner beat out three other finalists -- from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Forest Service.

Unlike most private hospitals, medicines dispensed at VA hospitals are not given to patients to be brought home upon discharge. Nurses instead just discard the medicine.

"Currently the inpatient medications such as ointments, inhalers, eye drops, and other bulk items are being disposed of upon patient discharge,” Fichtner noted in her SAVE Award submission.

"I want to thank everyone who voted and participated in the White House SAVE award competition,” Fichtner said in a statement released by OMB. “A lot of great ideas were submitted, and I am truly honored that my idea has been chosen. As the daughter and grandchild of veterans, I personally understand the sacrifice our service members and their families make. My goal as a VA employee is to help provide a safe and caring environment for veterans, and I am excited that my idea can help change their lives for the better.”

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 11, 2009; 3:10 PM ET
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Seems like a no-brainer that we would allow the vets to take home the unused portion of medications when leaving the hospital.

This is a great public relations item, but for a contest designed to figure out new ways to save tax dollars, how exactly does this save the taxpayer money? An open bottle of medication isn't recycled so if it's thrown away or sent home with the vet, it's still a sunk cost. I don't see a taxpayer savings.

Was there an cost analysis to determine the suggestions that would save the taxpayers money? If not, why not? If so, show the public the cost savings relative to the other suggestions. How about a little transparency!!

Posted by: vgrimes99 | December 14, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Well most people at a VA hospital are probably under some sort of govt health care like TriCare and so once they have to go get a new prescription that is wasting taxpayer money?

Posted by: TrustMe3 | December 14, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

OK how do you not get this?

You are in the hospital and a medication is prescribed; you leave the hospital with a prescription for that medication, yet the bottle or tube of that medication you were using while in the hospital gets thrown out rather than sent home with you.

Which means you have to go get that prescription filled right away instead of using up what you had in the hospital.

Who covers V.A. insurance prescription costs?


Posted by: lquarton | December 15, 2009 12:29 AM | Report abuse

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