The VA is a behemoth example of government failure, yet what is the fix from Washington? Thanks to the McCain-Sanders bill, throw more taxpayer money at it–to the tune of perhaps $50 billion more a year. But the bigger tragedy is that veterans will be no better off than they were before the bill was passed and a sanctimonious body of senators will dust its hands of the sordid VA mess. As the WSJ notes here, bravo to the three senators who opposed the McCain-Sanders bill.
As with existing private-care options, CBO “expects that VA would have difficulty in quickly setting up a program to contract for health care nationwide and in establishing administrative processes to approve care by private health care providers.” One reason is that the VA’s scheduling system, which hasn’t been updated since the 1980s, would be inundated with new patients and appointment requests.
CBO estimates the legislation will increase health-care demand by about 60%. The bill seeks to control costs by limiting veterans’ “choice” to Medicare providers, the Department of Defense, the Indian Health Service and “federally qualified health centers,” which provide preventive care to uninsured and low-income patients.
The budget gnomes estimate that parallel legislation that the House passed unanimously last week would cost $54 billion annually. The reason for the higher cost is that the House legislation clearly defines treatment delays as wait times exceeding 14 days. CBO expects “the combination of convenient location and streamlined access to inexpensive care” to increase demand for care by 75% and enrollment by 25%. But since the VA would reimburse private providers at Medicare rates, health-care access issues may persist.
What neither bill does is address the fundamental problem of excessive demand, which stems from the VA’s guarantee of virtually universal care at little to no out-of-pocket costs. This would involve increased cost-sharing, but that would mean reforming a government program through free-market incentives. Democrats oppose this, and Republicans are afraid to propose it.
The Washington formula is always the same. A business failure or scandal is an excuse for more government spending and power, and a government failure is also an excuse for more government spending and power. Bravo to the three Senators who opposed the Sanders-McCain bill: Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, Tennessee’s Bob Corkerand Alabama’s Jeff Sessions.