The Administration is offering greater healthcare freedom with new proposed rules that would allow veterans to seek private options outside of VA facilities. This is a commonsense reform that would honor veterans with more responsive options for their care.
Think about it: The VA is the most restrictive healthcare program in the United States. Even Medicare and Medicaid patients are free to seek care with any willing provider. It’s only our veterans who are restricted to care offered only at the VA.
Previously, veterans have been allowed outside of VA facilities if their closest VA was more than 40 miles away or could not offer an appointment within 30 days. This is part of a choice program established in 2014 under the Access, Choice, and Accountability Act signed by President Obama. Indeed, expanding choices for veterans is a issue that deserves bi-partisan support.
The new rules would change the distance threshold to drive time (60 minutes for specialty care and 30 minutes for primary care) and would tighten the time threshold to 20 days. This increases accountability for VA facilities and offers more options to more veterans who today could be facing a health risk because their closest facility can’t see them quickly enough.
To be clear: Studies have shown that the care veterans receive at VA hospitals is high quality care, but the problem lies with the bloated, unaccountable bureaucracy that manages the VA. Sadly, scandals have revealed long wait times and even secret waiting lists at VA facilities across the country. These scandals were the impetus for reforms in 2014, and should serve as a stark reminder of the continued need for transparency and accountability.
In fact, problems within the VA should serve as an ominous sign of what could be to come if the federal government expands its control over the health sector through a single-payer program like “Medicare for All,” which would reduce choices. Do we want an unaccountable government bureaucracy in control of everyone’s health?
The latest proposed rules at the VA rightly go in the opposite direction and expand choice.