Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Privatizing Veterans' HealthCare: Fierce Opposition to the Idea Should Inform Debate Over Public Plan in National Healthcare Reform

According to CNN, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki has confirmed that the White House is considering an the option of billing veterans' private health insurance for service-related medical conditions. Even though this idea is simply "under consideration," it has already generated swift opposition:
[T]he proposal would be "dead on arrival" if it's sent to Congress, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said.

Murray used that blunt terminology when she told Shinseki that the idea would not be acceptable and would be rejected if formally proposed. . . .

No official proposal to create such a program has been announced publicly, but veterans groups wrote a pre-emptive letter last week to President Obama voicing their opposition to the idea after hearing the plan was under consideration.
The groups also cited an increase in "third-party collections" estimated in the 2010 budget proposal -- something they said could be achieved only if the Veterans Administration started billing for service-related injuries.
So Public-Sponsored Health Plans Are Not Evil, Socialized Medicine?
The very strong opposition to this idea is entirely predictable. But it brings to light a controversial issue in the healthcare reform debate: the possibility of a "public plan" option.

Recently, two major labor unions withdrew from the group of insurance companies, medical professionals, corporate employers, pharmaceutical companies and other parties that are trying to reach a consensus on a plan to reform the nation's healthcare system. Representatives from the unions stated they left the talks because they believed that the group would ultimately reject the idea of a "public plan" option, where the government acted as a healthcare payer.

During his presidential campaign, Obama promised to include a public plan option in healthcare reform. WhiteHouse.Gov makes the same promise. Recently, he has indicated a willingness to abandon the idea.

Critics argue that a public plan would diminish competition and eliminate private insurance, lead to a single-payer system, and create a system of "socialized medicine." But the public payment of veterans' healthcare is indeed a public plan. Many other national public plans exist (for federal workers, Medicaid, and Medicare). And states also sponsor public health plans (for teachers, state and municipal workers, and children).

The deep opposition to "privatizing" the payment of veterans' service-related medical conditions demonstrates that the mere idea of having some sort of public plan is not antithetical to a free society. Federal and state governments already compete with private companies in a number of important areas including education, healthcare, and transportation.

Accordingly, the heathcare debate cannot turn on the melodramatic claim that any type of public plan option would lead to the horrors of socialism. Instead: "The debate must center on "how" and "when" the government can inject itself within the private sector -- not "whether" it can do so altogether."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem with this is that they also want to bill for service wounds. How would the private market react to that? One humorous part of this change is that privatizing vet health care was actually a McCain plan as well. That said I am not sure where I stand on the issue because of the bloated goat the VA is these days.

Real Time Analytics