Stung by sticker shock, members of Congress are scrambling to lower the cost of a bill to fix veterans' health care amid a growing uproar over long waits for appointments and falsification of records to cover up the delays at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
At the same time, deficit hawks worry that letting veterans turn more to providers outside the VA for health care could cost far more if Congress, under pressure from powerful veterans groups, decides to renew that program rather than let it expire in two years.
An analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimates a Senate-passed bill would cost $35 billion through 2016 to build new clinics, hire doctors and make it easier for veterans who can't get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.
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