The Department of Veterans Affairs has recently announced a new budget busting plan to massively increase the number of veterans sent to private providers and clinics despite serious concerns over quality and capability of the for-profit industry.
The plan creates new access standards for private health care as part of a bigger effort driven by the Koch brothers, health care industry, and their allies in congress to privatize most veterans’ health care and eventually turn the VA into a mere insurance like voucher program.
The new criteria, expected to take effect in June, will be based on shorter average drive times and appointment wait times than previous criteria so they can justify shutting down more of the VA’s own veteran-centric, cost-effective health care services.
While cashing in on veterans’ health care may be good for corporations, it’s definitely bad for veterans. Here’s why:
1. Veterans will have to wait longer for care at private hospitals
Contrary to popular belief, wait times at private hospitals are actually longer than those at VA facilities. The VA has significantly improved in this area despite the many obstacles created by pro-privatization politicians.
2. Private providers are not equipped to meet the unique needs of veterans
The VA’s mission is to provide care for veterans, so over the years it has developed into a world-class institution with teams of researchers who have pioneered advanced treatments tailored to fit the unique needs of veterans. Private, for-profit hospitals, on the other hand, are not designed with veterans in mind, do not have a holistic approach to veterans’ care, and simply can’t handle veterans’ unique needs.
3. Privatization drains money from VA health care to the for-profit hospital industry
Expanding the privatization program means diverting funding dedicated to the VA to do more research and provide care for veterans into the pockets of private hospitals and investors whose bottom line is not veterans’ best care. There are 46,000 vacancies at the VA, but instead of making hiring a priority, Congress and the administration keep attacking VA workers’ pay and voice at work as a way to dismantle the VA and expand privatization.
“In Secretary Wilkie’s own words, the VA is ‘seeing more patients than ever before, more quickly than ever before, and veterans are more satisfied with their care than they have been previously.’ So why not build on that instead of crippling the agency financially?” asked AFGE National Veterans Affairs Council President Alma Lee, who represents 250,000 workers at the VA. “We know there is less access to care in the private sector, and that care is inferior to the specialized treatments offered at the VA. So why the rush to push veterans out the door to wait in line at private providers ill-equipped for veterans’ unique needs? We must fill these vacancies before we do anything else.”
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