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The VA Is the Closest Thing We Have to Single Payer—Now Trump Wants to Privatize It

March 17, 2018 in Blogs

By Bryce Covert, In These Times

The VA has problems, but more “vouchers to veterans” won't help.


Aaron Hughes, who was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 and 2004, now has a serious, very rare lung condition. But he told In These Times he gets “really outstanding care” at the nearby Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. “The doctors are at the top of their class,” he said.

Because his condition is so rare, Hughes has been sent to a hospital outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for specific tests. And his taste of the private healthcare system has been sour. “As soon as I went there, all hell broke loose,” he said, explaining there were problems with sharing records between the two institutions. “With the VA system, when you do tests, it’s all integrated.” Every doctor Hughes sees is aware of all the other treatment he gets, from vision to mental health. The private hospitals, on the other hand, often refuse to send the records back to the VA. “The private sector isn’t about sharing your information,” Hughes explained. “It’s not about healthcare, it’s about ownership of care.”

Hughes thinks these problems could get worse if efforts to fully privatize the VA are successful. President Donald Trump has supported privatizing the system, and has called to make permanent the Veterans Choice Program, an experiment Congress launched in 2014 that gives vouchers to veterans to see private doctors, while cutting other parts of the agency. These developments have provoked concerns that Trump will usher in a full private sector takeover. 

“I worry that my care will become a profit motive,” Hughes said. “And that means it’s not about me anymore, it’s about making money.”

Now Hughes’ organization, About Face: Veterans Against the War, has joined other veterans’ groups, unions and healthcare advocates to launch a campaign to stop the privatization of the VA. After several months of building the coalition, the mobilization now includes Veterans for Peace, Service Employees International Union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and National Nurses United. Healthcare advocacy groups including the Illinois Single Payer Coalition and the Democratic Socialists of America Healthcare Working Group …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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