President-elect Donald Trump is evaluating a radical overhaul of veterans health care options even before he finalizes his pick for the next secretary of veterans affairs.
In comments to reporters late Wednesday, a transition official said Trump is considering a “public-private option” that would allow some veterans to get all of their medical care from private-sector physicians, with the government paying the bill.
“It’s one of the options on the table,” the official said. ”Definitely an option on the table to have a system where potentially vets can choose either or, or all private.”
Trump met with health care executives Wednesday to discuss the future of VA services, among other medical topics. That meeting included Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, one of the front-runners for the top VA post.
Cosgrove has publicly backed plans to expand veterans’ access to care options outside VA, arguing such a move will free up specialists for patients with service-specific injuries while allowing faster appointments for other veterans.
But veterans groups have argued against many of those moves, saying it could undermine VA care by shifting resources away from department physicians best suited to diagnose and treat ailments facing veterans.
The fight has gotten heated throughout the campaign season, with charges of privatization and politicization being leveled by and against veterans advocates.
It’s unclear whether Trump’s latest proposal would cover all veterans, or all veterans currently receiving VA care, or only a smaller segment of that population.
About 9 million veterans — 40 percent of the total U.S. veterans population — use VA medical services or receive veterans benefits. VA officials said nearly one-third of all medical appointments conducted last fiscal year were with physicians outside the department.
Congress in 2014 approved a new Choice Card program, which allows veterans facing lengthy wait times or significant travel to visit private-sector clinics instead of VA facilities. But the program has faced mixed reviews, with VA officials saying it has limited use and critics saying department officials have undermined the program with unneeded bureaucracy.
During the campaign last summer, Trump promised to “ensure every veteran in America has the choice to seek care at the VA, or to seek private medical care paid for by our government.” Critics questioned how such a plan would work and what the potential costs would be.
Transition officials have not said when Trump is expected to make an announcement on his VA secretary pick.
Me Here.......This is long over due. Massive change is desperately needed at the VA.
The article doesn't explain the Veterans Choice Card scam. It does mandate long travel for health care. If a Veteran lives within 40 miles of ANY VA medical facility, no matter how small, you are locked into the system and you probably have to travel a much greater distance for medical care.
It is time to end the "brick and mortar" system of VA health care. It is time to turn it into an insurance program so Veterans can get local care. Why can't it be exactly like Medicare or even better? Hasn't our service for our country earned this? Why should we have the worst federal health care system?
I don't understand why Veteran's Groups are fighting this. I don't. Those of us out in fly over country want this. That is the nearly unanimous view of the Veterans at my American Legion Post. Yet our leaders up the chain ignore our views!
I am so glad Hillary lost. I saw stories that led me to believe her plan was to mandate VA care for all Veterans. The claim was civilian doctors were not qualified to treat us. That is stupid. The real motive was to grow government. It was to increase government employees and force them to be union. That would enrich the Democrat Party as they get most of the dues.
There is no reason why we have to travel hundreds of miles for the same or better care that is available locally.