November 20, 2014

Misguided Strategy on VA Health Care

  • The American health care system is a patchwork of public and private programs that serve citizens in different ways, depending on their age, military...

While Congress should ensure that veterans receive timely access to health care, a Congressional Budget Office analysis shows the high cost of a Senate plan to provide broad access to care providers outside the VA system.

This could cost up to an estimated $50 billion a year, more than double what the government currently spends on veterans’ care. The Senate approved its VA legislation last Wednesday.

Joshua Gordon, Concord Coalition policy director, notes that the Senate’s new “mandatory appropriation” -- which lawmakers have not figured out how to pay for -- would increase the federal deficit even more than Medicare’s prescription drug benefit does.

In addition, he argues in a new blog post, the whole congressional strategy is misguided.

“The first problem is that Congress, in trying to rapidly fix a flaw that has existed for decades, is charging an agency with substantial bureaucratic problems to implement a large new health care entitlement,” he writes.

He also points out that despite the recent concerns about access to the VA system, the care it provides is better and less costly than what is provided by the nation’s health care system as whole.

“Yet this new entitlement moves veterans’ care in the exact opposite direction, from one that delivers better outcomes at lower costs to a more inefficient patchwork of independent providers,” Gordon writes.

He suggests that lawmakers try again to figure out how to ease the waiting list problems in the system. That would give veterans “the top-quality care they deserve -- in a delivery system the private sector is hard at work trying to emulate.”