Is Privatizing the VA a Good Idea?


By Debbie Gregory.

Top Republicans’ growing support for privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system has Hillary Clinton vowing to fight “as long and hard as it takes.”

The Democratic presidential candidate has said that veterans’ issues would be a priority of her administration, unveiling a comprehensive plan to revamp the delivery of health care to veterans, while holding the VA more accountable.

Clinton said the secretaries of defense and veterans affairs will be told that “there will be zero tolerance for the kinds of abuses and delays we have seen.”

Veterans advocates acknowledge the need for reform at the VA. But they do not believe private insurance or medical care is capable of accommodating veterans’ specific needs. They maintain that a voucher program for purchasing care outside the VA system will inevitably fall short of veterans’ expenses.

Clinton agrees that privatization will throw veterans into the private insurance market. “I believe in giving vets more choice on when and how you receive care, and I think there should be more partnership between the VA and private hospitals and community health care providers. But we cannot and I will not put our vets at the mercy of private insurance companies without any coordination, or leave them to fend for themselves with health care providers who have no expertise in the unique challenges that are facing our veterans,” Clinton said. “Privatization is a betrayal, plain and simple, and I’m not going to let it happen.”

While Ben Carson’s proposal to basically disband the VA health system is the most radical of the GOP presidential contenders’ plans, other candidates are not far behind. Donald Trump’s plan would have VA medical facilities compete with non-VA care providers.

Clinton said mental health and substance abuse treatment should be readily available for veterans, calling the frequency of veteran suicide and homelessness rates a “national disgrace.”

And, she said, pharmacies that price gouge veterans would be subject to the “full power of the federal government.”

Which side of the argument do you agree with?

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