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Congress Wants to Double Down on VA Failures

July 2, 2014 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

Bipartisanship has broken out in Washington. This isn’t usually a good sign.

Faced with the ongoing scandal in the VA health-care system, Democrats and Republicans have joined together to rush through legislation in near-record time.

The Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Bernie Sanders and John McCain, in early June — just two months (or a blink in D.C. terms) — and the House has followed suit. The margins in both chambers were overwhelming: 93–3 in the Senate, and 421–0 in the House. A conference committee will now work out the differences between the two bills.

The legislation sounds great: bipartisan, about veterans, reacting to a scandal that Americans are demanding be addressed. It’s overwhelmingly popular. What could possibly go wrong?

Bipartisanship doesn’t mean good legislation; it often means overspending.”

Pretty much everything.

First, neither the House nor the Senate bill would fundamentally change the way that government provides health care to our veterans. The VA would continue to operate one of the world’s largest health-care systems, building and owning hospitals, hiring doctors, and providing care directly to millions of veterans — regardless, in many cases, of whether or not their ailments are service-related.

Of course, it may well be that some traumatic combat injuries require specialized treatment that is not widely available outside the VA system. If so, the VA may have to continue providing such care. But the vast majority of injuries and illnesses, even combat-connected ones, can be treated elsewhere.

Both the House and the Senate bills appear to recognize this, allowing veterans to seek outside health care at VA expense if they experience long wait times for appointments or if they live more than 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic. But both bills leave the ultimate decision about which veterans can go outside the VA system to VA administrators. Thus, the same bureaucrats responsible for the current waiting lists and other problems will be in charge of deciding when and if veterans should be given a choice. Isn’t that a bit like letting the fox guard the henhouse?

What the bill will do is spend lots of money. The initial three-year pilot program allowing veterans to seek care in non-VA facilities in the Senate bill would cost $35 billion, according to the CBO. Among other things, the bill would open 26 new clinics in 18 states, as well as hire additional VA doctors and nurses. The outpatient-treatment …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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