Presidetn Trump signs "VA Mission Act of 2018." Photo: Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images.

The Department of Veterans Affairs program that sends more veterans to private hospitals and doctors has resulted in longer wait times and a higher taxpayer bill, ProPublica reports with PolitiFact. 

The big picture: The program was set up to help veterans avoid lengthy waits for care. Instead, veterans had to wait at least 30 days 41% of the time, and sometimes they had to wait as long as 70 days, according to government watchdog estimates

Details:

  • The two private contractors hired to run the program have been paid nearly $2 billion for overhead, including profit, since 2014. 
  • That's 24% of the companies' total program expenses, the rest of which went to medical claims. The Affordable Care Act capped the private insurance industry's overhead at 15%–20%, and only about 8% of the Defense Department's Tricare program spending goes to overhead.
  • The VA paid the contractors at least $295 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. This processing fee for each referral was sometimes bigger than the doctor's bill, the two groups reported.

What we're watching: Congress passed a law this year that consolidates all of the VA's programs for buying private care. 

Go deeper: Trump signs VA bill, opposes funding it

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus — COVID-19 looms over White House Halloween celebrations
  2. Health: Fauci says maybe we should mandate masks if people don't wear them — America was sick well before it ever got COVID-19
  3. World: Polish President Andrzej Duda tests positive for COVID-19.

Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.

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Opposition leader Leopoldo López flees Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López outside the Spanish embassy in Caracas, in 2019. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Leopoldo López, a former political prisoner and prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, has left the country, his Popular Will party confirmed in a statement Saturday.

Why it matters: He's been an influential force in the push to oust President Nicolás Maduro's regime and a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaidó. He'd been in the Spanish ambassador's Caracas residence since escaping house arrest in April 2019 following a failed military uprising.