It’s official: Since its November debut, only a handful of veterans have opted to seek care from private-sector providers under the controversial Choice Card privatization program. In fact, it has been used by just 3% of veterans who are eligible, or 27,000 veterans out of 700,000. The number is even smaller when compared with the 9 million veterans who currently use VA health care.
Secretary Bob McDonald is asking for authorization to divert funding from the program to staff up the VA. AFGE has been calling for the VA to address access barriers including short staffed primary care teams and closed hospital beds as well more funds to modernize and maintain buildings.
The Choice Card program was created following the waitlist scandal caused by mismanagement and severe shortages of clinical staff and space in clinics and hospitals. Instead of fully funding the VA over the past decade so it has the facilities and staff it needs, lawmakers have pressured the agency to send even more veterans to for-profit private providers such as those participate in the Choice Card program.
“As far as I can tell, the choice card has created more confusion and aggravation than improving access to clinical care, though it did gain political points,” a VA doctor told the Washington Post.
AFGE and most veterans groups oppose significant shifting of VA health care dollars to private-sector providers who lack the specialized skills and best practices of clinicians who dedicate their lives to serving the veteran population as VA employees.
AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. praised the Secretary for his request for authorization to divert funding from the controversial Choice Card privatization program to staff up the VA.