Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wounded Veterans to Pay for Health Care?

House and Senate Democrats have moved to eliminate a budget proposal that would require combat veterans to use third-party health insurance firms to pay for combat-related injuries, calling it "deeply troubling" and "the responsibility of the U.S. government through the Department of Veterans Affairs -- period." For its part, the Obama Administration does not appear committed to this proposal and already has a meeting scheduled with veterans' groups to discuss this and the overall VA budget.

Jon Soltz, executive director of VoteVets, spoke with Huffington Post about the proposal:
We don't know if this is going to be the proposal, or if it is a serious consideration or not. So, it's premature to go to the White House with pitchforks at this point. That having been said, if it is proposed, we would be opposed, and can't imagine any veterans group that would be for it. There's no appetite for it on the Hill, either. There are ways to eliminate waste at every level of government, though, including the VA. I think we'd all like to sit down with the administration and find areas of the VA budget that are redundant or wasteful, to make sure every dollar spent there is necessary.
It's pretty clear that this idea is a non-starter, as it should be. What's interesting is the hysterical response of the right-blogosphere ("Obama screws military!", "Radical Socialism!", "this makes me sick to my stomach"), which you can sample here, here, and here. Also of interest  is the official Fox News account.

First of all, Fox buries and no one else mentions that the Obama budget proposes a 10% increase in VA funding, an increase badly needed after eight years of Bush budget cuts and dereliction of duty. Moreover, they're all acting as if this were a done deal on the scale of the neglect at Walter Reed Hospital instead of a trial balloon intended as a means of paying for the overall increase. 

But what really surprises me is the emotional extent of the opposition. After all, wouldn't privately insured benefits payments simply allow injured veterans to take advantage of the wonderful world of free choice? It's an article of faith among conservatives that the United States has the world's best health care system, never mind the 50,000,000 uninsured and 60,000,000 underinsured. Why oppose a proposal that will allow veterans to participate in it instead of being subject to government-run health care, which by definition is evil, incompetent, and inefficient? 

It seems to me that conservatives can't have it both ways, much as they may want to. If privately insured payment of benefits isn't acceptable for combat veterans, why should it be acceptable to anyone else?

Despite the headlines, no one says that wounded veterans will actually have to pay for their health care. I worked for a company that self-insured its employees but administered provider payments through a private insurer. I rarely paid any money out of pocket and never had a problem with provider payments being withheld. If I did have a problem or question, I dealt with my company's Human Resources department and not the insurer. Problems were rare because the company had a commitment to broad coverage.

Which for wounded veterans I would think is really the issue: What is the government commitment to coverage of treatment of combat wounds and combat-related disabilities? If an individual veteran has problem or question, will the VA resolve it? During the Bush years, the VA earned a poor reputation for providing and paying for the immense psychological damage experienced by Iraq war veterans, wounded or otherwise. (Bush cuts in the VA budget didn't make their job any easier.) It's instructive that veterans' groups would nonetheless still rather go through the VA rather than have anything to do with the private sector. Which raises the questions again: If private health insurance is bad for veterans, why is it good for the rest of the American citizenry? If government-run health care is the gold standard for veterans, why isn't it for everyone else?...

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

Obama is extremely hostile to anything as a single payer system. The idea of private insurance being considered, isn't there by mistake. The economic advisors around him, are defenders of private insurance.

The right is in no position to protest.