05 Feb Privatization of Veterans’ healthcare
The stanchion around which President Trump campaigned for the presidency was Veteran’s Healthcare. Calling the then Veteran Health Care a disaster and an utter disgrace to the veterans, considering the 2014 scandal in which the Department of Veteran Affairs systemic failure came into the foray, candidate Trump in 2016, promulgated to reform the system from top to bottom. Two and half years down the line, since he has assumed the most prestigious seat in the White House, the state of the promised reforms and the nature of their effects on the veterans remain unclear.
Forming the most extensive health system in the country along with being the second biggest agency in the federal government, Department of Veterans Affairs accounts close to $200billion in terms of federal spending. Boasting more than 35,000 employees encapsulating the health care needs of nearly 9million veterans, the department has been serving the veterans for the past 150 years. But suspicions over the conduct of individual centers of Veterans health care, especially the one in Phoenix, surfaced and further propelled the cry for privatizing the veteran health care model. Intentional manipulation by some of the government officials to conceal the lengthy wait times at its medical centers led to public outrage. Dozens of veterans ended up losing their lives because of the incompetence of some of the individuals in the department.
To assuage the crisis, Congress passed a resolution under which veterans residing 40 miles or far from the medical facility and being made to wait for more than 30 days can opt to get treated by any private health care facility. This temporary measure further extended the need for more freedom when it came to choosing health care facilities for veterans, thus setting the tone for privatizing veteran health care. The choice program followed by the mission act passed by both the houses of state ensured that veterans were granted with the access to healthcare from seven different programs offering community care. With the bill to come into law, starting from this year, many proponents of privatization have suggested completely transforming the veteran healthcare model. They have cited evidence of shorter wait times, fewer requirements for co-pays for availing the medical amenities and improved quality of treatment. With more soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it was reported that veteran hospitals failed to see the veterans on time due to the huge influx, thereby leading to more doubts about their efficiency.
But despite recent reporting of lax behavior on veteran hospitals part, 60% of the peer-reviewed studies, including the RAND report commissioned by the Congress, showed is comparable to and in some cases superior to private healthcare providers. The VA’s behavioral programs comprising of the mental health usurped the same service provided by private facilities by 30 percent in every case. Part of the reason why Veterans Health Care (VHA) has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons has been the intense scrutiny it receives from two standing committees of Congress: the inspector general and a highly engaged press whereas the private health providers easily escape this politically charged atmosphere.
Leading supporters of privatization, the Koch brothers, have suggested a transition from the current structure of VHA to a government-run non-profit corporation, which grants more freedom of choice to the veterans. With the number of veterans decreasing in the coming years and their density becoming sparse geographically, therefore the ability to access community care centers becomes paramount. Also, funneling the funds towards private healthcare providers will increase the competition and thereby further honing the quality of healthcare throughout the country.
But even such measures would lead to skyrocketing costs for the VHA, with an expenditure of $100billion every year which could potentially explode to $450billion per year by 2034. Government spending on the private sector would also siphon off the funds from VA hospitals, posing a risk to their functioning and ultimately causing their closure. Also, the private healthcare facility hasn’t been adequately tested for handling the 9million veterans of the country. Therefore, a lot of question marks remain over the privatization of veterans’ healthcare. So, what do you think, should there be more or less privatization of veterans healthcare?