In the biggest transformation of the veterans’ medical system in a generation, the Department of Veterans Affairs is preparing to redirect billions in taxpayer money to privatized care.
Under the new guidelines, The New York Times reported, veterans could more easily receive care in private hospitals and still have the government pay.
The return of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans heightened the mounting pressure of the hospital systems, which were also caring for the aging Vietnam veterans. In 2014, Congress began searching for solutions after hidden waiting lists surfaced. While Republicans favored a private sector solution, Democrats fought to increase the number of doctors in the V.A.
These new rules, if put into effect, would be a win for the advocacy group Concerned Veterans for America, funded by billionaire industrialists Charles G. and David H. Koch.
For veterans, private care would mean waits would be shorter, they would have more choices, and they would have fewer co-pay requirements.
Critics caution that sending veterans to private hospitals would overrun the private sector. Taxpayer costs could skyrocket, and traditional veterans’ hospitals would be in danger of closing.
Robert Wilkie, the secretary of veterans affairs, has said that veterans mostly like to use the department’s hospitals. He says, “My experience is veterans are happy with the service they get at the Department of Veterans Affairs.” He adds that “They want to go places where people speak the language and understand the culture.”
Whatever the effects may be, health care experts warn that allowing more access to private care will be costly- potentially over $100 billion each year.