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More veterans are able to get more care outside the VA system, but improper billing oversight has put thousands at risk for unanticipated hospital bills.

By the numbers: A report this week from the VA’s Office of Inspector General found that many veterans’ claims were improperly denied after they sought care in the emergency rooms of non-VA facilities.

  • The OIG estimated that about 17,400 veterans were billed for care the VA should have covered, totaling about $53 million.
  • The universe of potential effects is even bigger. Not every hospital ended up billing veterans for their denied claims, but roughly 61,000 veterans were at risk for such a bill, the OIG found.

What happened: The part of the VA that handles these claims prioritized speed — making a lot of decisions as quickly as possible — over accuracy, the OIG said.

  • The inappropriate denials were largely a product of processing errors, and when claims are processed incorrectly, patients who do get a bill may not have the accurate information they need to contest it.

My thought bubble: There’s a practical, non-ideological argument for expanding veterans’ options outside VA facilities, and that case is especially intuitive for emergency care. But the VA is still dropping the ball if it’s not actually covering that care the way it should.

Go deeper: Veterans' private health care program led to longer waits

Go deeper

Journalism enters dangerous new era

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Capitol attack on Jan. 6 resulted in at least nine physical assaults against journalists and at least five arrests, per the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker's top editor.

Why it matters: President Trump's harsh rhetoric towards the press has empowered leaders abroad and locally in the U.S. to continue to attack press that they don't like.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The beginning of the beginning for Biden's climate push

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Joe Biden's inauguration and the days right after will bring a rat-tat-tat burst of climate policy moves, but keep this in mind amid the splashy pledges: pushing through most of his agenda will be a long, uncertain slog.

Why it matters: Biden's climate plan is far more expansive than anything contemplated under President Obama. But for all the immediate pledges, it will take years to see how far Biden gets.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Biden's inflation danger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal has economists and bullish market analysts revising their U.S. growth expectations higher, predicting a reflation of the economy in 2021 and possibly more booming returns for risk assets.

Yes, but: Others are warning that what's expected to be reflation could actually show up as inflation, a much less welcome phenomenon.