What is VA Privatization and What are the Arguments?
There is an ongoing debate in Washington over VA privatization and the extent to which private healthcare should be an option for veterans seeking care. Unfortunately, those on both sides of the debate seem to have retreated to their own respective sides when it comes the veterans’ healthcare. So what are the arguments for and against the privatization of the VA? Can both sides find common ground for the good of America’s veterans?
The argument against VA privatization
The arguments against VA privatization are many. Those who advocate against privatization argue that increasing funding for vouchers would weaken the healthcare infrastructure of the Veterans Administration, the second largest agency in the United States federal government. The VA’s infrastructure is expansive and growing. In 2000, the VA operated 1,110 healthcare facilities. That number has risen to 1,240 as of July 2018.
Another and perhaps more compelling argument against VA privatization is that the VA provides a sense of comradery and community for veterans, something that is highly valued those who have served. Those who advocate against privatization worry that that sense of community and comradery with fellow veterans could be lost if private partnerships and voucher programs are expanded.
The argument for privatization
The main argument for expanding VA privatization is simple: America’s veterans deserve highest level of care, no matter where it comes from. Advocates for VA privatization argue that expanding healthcare access to the private sector would improve veterans’ overall access to quality and timely care. Veterans, they argue, should have the right to seek healthcare where they want.
Recently, there have been major moves toward expanding private healthcare partnerships to supplement the care provided by the VA. On June 6, 2018, President Trump signed the MISSION Act of 2018 which, among other things, aims to ensure that veterans have access to healthcare in a timely manner. The law states that the VA must provide, “access to community care if VA does not offer the care or services the veteran requires, VA does not operate a full-service medical facility in the state a veteran resides, the veteran was eligible for care in the community under the 40-mile rule in the Veterans Choice Program.” In other words, the MISSION Act aims to ensure that veterans no longer face long wait times when seeking care.
Finding common ground
Advocates on both sides of the debate have legitimate arguments. On one hand, the sense of comradery and community that the VA provides should not be discounted by those who advocate for more aggressive VA privatization. Nor should privatization advocates forget the thousands of dedicated employees of the VA who work hard every day to ensure America’s veterans get the healthcare they need. Conversely, we should not discount the value of private healthcare providers that are able to treat veterans more efficiently and effectively.
The debate over VA privatization shows no sign of slowing down. That said, advocates on both sides of the issue should focus on finding common ground for the good of our veterans. When partnerships with private sector healthcare providers make sense, they should not be hindered. Nor should we privatize areas of veterans’ healthcare where the VA provides quality care. The bottom line is that veterans deserve the best healthcare America can provide, no matter who provides it.