Conservatives Just Lost Their Battle To Privatize The VA
July 11, 2016

Good news on the VA health care front. Washington Monthly reports that a Congress-appointed commission has come out with findings that will disappoint privatization fetishists who want to dismantle the VA hospital system.

The outlook for that Commission wasn't great. Congress appointed two Koch Brothers types to the panel, as well as hospital executives who stand to profit from moving veteran's healthcare to the private sector.

The problem for conservatives in Congress is that the commission actually talked to veterans, and looked at the real data on how healthcare is delivered within the VA structure.

Veterans overwhelmingly like VA hospitals and the care they receive at those facilities. In some cases, yes, wait-times for appointments are too long, and specialists in certain areas of the country are hard to come by. The process for being deemed eligible for care is still onerous, and needs a fix.

And of course, VA hospitals deliver care at a lower cost than private hospitals.

Among other things, we reported that research commissioned by Congress and ratified by the Commission concluded that while the VA has major problems, such as severe shortages of some doctors, VA health care nevertheless performs as well or better than the private sector on nearly every metric of quality, including average wait times to see doctors.Washington Monthly:

Meanwhile, the presidential candidates also took positions on the VA issue. Donald Trump’s campaign backed aggressive privatization. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, announced her opposition to privatization but support for expanding existing “purchased care” programs wherein the VA contracts with outside providers to alleviate care shortages but maintains tight oversight to guarantee information-sharing, care integration, and quality and cost controls.

On Wednesday, the Commission released its final report. To the surprise of most observers, the commission rejected privatization as the solution. While detailing a host of serious failings with the VA, the report notes that “care delivered by VA is in many ways comparable or better in clinical quality to that generally available in the private sector.” It concludes that the new Choice Program was “flawed” in both its design and execution, adding that “the program has aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans, private-sector health care providers participating in networks, and V.H.A. alike.” Rather than wholesale outsourcing, the report recommends addressing issues of access by “standing up integrated veteran-centric, community-based delivery networks,” a plan roughly similar to the one Hillary Clinton had called for.

Of course, no one can predict what Congress will actually do with this commission's report. They have a great reputation for doing nothing. But if Veteran's healthcare is an issue at all in the Presidential campaign, it's worth noting that only one candidate's position is endorsed by a commission who actually studied the problem and came up with fact-based solutions.


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