Veterans deserve good healthcare. There’s no disagreement on that point. The real question is how to provide that good healthcare.
The VA Healthcare System for our veterans is the only true socialized medicine model in this country. The hospitals, doctors, and nurses are all employees of the federal government and federal taxpayers pay all the bills.
Socialized medicine, and its close relative, single-payer healthcare, are considered unacceptable by a majority of Americans for their personal healthcare. Progressives have been pushing for this to change for the last hundred years since the days of President Teddy Roosevelt, but thus far they have failed to convince most Americans. ObamaCare was their best step forward toward this ultimate goal.
Yet, even though this model of healthcare is considered unacceptable for most Americans, we tolerate this for our veterans. In other words, those who deserve our best medicine are getting what we don’t consider acceptable for ourselves.
The VA System came under close scrutiny in 2014, during the Obama Administration, when reports surfaced of veterans dying while waiting for doctor appointments at the VA Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. I wrote of this in an earlier blog called VA Hospital Scandal. Here is a quote from that post:
“According to the Inspector General report released this past week, the reports of fraudulent documentation of waiting times for veterans to receive medical treatment at the Phoenix V. A. Hospital are worse than initial claims. The IG report found primary-care waiting times averaged 115 days, nearly five times what the hospital reported and eight times the VA’s 14 day target. About 3100 veterans were actually waiting in line and more than half of them weren’t on the official waiting list. Whistleblowers at the hospital allege that forty or more veterans died while waiting to receive treatment.
This problem is not unique to the Phoenix VA Hospital alone. At this time 42 VA medical centers are under investigation for similar problems. This is not actually a new problem. According to an editorial in The Wall Street Journal, this is the 19th IG report since 2005 to document excessive wait times at VA Hospitals.”
Since that scandal of 2014 there have been some changes at the VA. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned and was replaced by Robert McDonald. He lasted until he was replaced by David Shulkin, the Undersecretary under President Obama. President Trump has now replaced Shulkin with the appointment of Rear Admiral Ronald Jackson, his White House physician.
Privatization of the VA
The real solution is to privatize the system. If private healthcare is considered the best healthcare for most Americans, why wouldn’t we want it for our veterans?
Avik Roy, writing in Forbes in 2014 said this:
“There is only one way to truly reform the VA, to truly ensure that veterans get the care they need. And that is to give vets the ability to take the money that the government spends on them and use it to buy high-quality, private insurance. There are two straightforward ways to go about it. One would be to give veterans subsidies with which to buy insurance from the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, the popular private health insurance program for government workers. Another would be to allow those same subsidies to be used on the ObamaCare insurance exchanges. Either approach would allow veterans to seek care from private hospitals and private physicians.”
This seems to be the interest of the Trump Administration and the issue that led to the firing of David Shulkin. In an Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled Privatizing the VA Will Hurt Veterans, Shulkin lashed out at the Trump Administration after he was fired.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board rejects Shulkin’s characterization of the issue and says, “Concerned Veterans for America in a white paper has sketched out a plan to restructure the VA and allow it to focus more on the expertise its doctors have developed in, say, post-traumatic stress and prosthetics. The plan includes a premium-support payment so vets could buy discounted private coverage from a menu, much like federal employees do. A current vet who preferred to be treated for diabetes elsewhere would be free to make that choice.”
The bottom line is the VA Healthcare System is in need of change – and the more choices it gives veterans about where to get their healthcare, the better. The essence of private medicine is freedom of choice – freedom to pick your doctor, pick your hospital, and pick your treatment. The essence of socialized medicine like the VA is loss of freedom of choice – you must go to their hospital, their doctor, and accept their treatment alone – after lengthy delays.
Veterans deserve the same freedom of choice we all want for our own healthcare. This should serve as a good reminder that we don’t want single-payer healthcare.