On January 29, Robert Wilkie, the secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, unveiled a plan that will accelerate the privatization of VA health care by pushing millions of veterans out of the VA into the private sector.
Wilkie’s announcement follows the passage of the MISSION Act of 2018 and allows him to set guidelines on how veterans can seek private-sector care. His proposed access rules allow any veteran who has to travel more than 30 minutes to the nearest VA hospital or wait for more than 20 days for a VA appointment to seek private care.
According to the New York Times, VA officials say the percentage of the veterans eligible for care in the private sector under the new rules would rise to between 20 and 30 percent, compared to 8 percent currently.
Although packaged under the guise of giving veterans shorter wait times and more choices, the devil is in the details:
- Independent studies have demonstrated that VA wait times are shorter than wait times in the private sector health care system.
- More than 86% of the 9 million veterans who use VA healthcare say they want continued, uninterrupted care from the VA. When surveyed veterans overwhelmingly give positive consumer satisfaction with VA health care.
- Study after study documents that the quality of VA healthcare is equal to or superior to care in the private sector.
Under the VA’s new rules every dollar spent on outsourcing veterans’ care to the private sector will come directly out of the VA’s budget and undermine its heath care system by preventing it filling 46,000 current staff vacancies or maintain its 150 hospitals and over 1,000 clinics.