Learn About Privatized VA Health Care

Federal U.S. administrations of the past expressed interest in privatizing health care for veterans, but the new administration is determined to achieve this goal. There are mixed opinions on whether a privatized U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system will create efficiency and add value to service delivery. Concerns have been raised that the privatization will compromise service delivery to beneficiary veterans, but the truth is that there are also advantages that will come with the privatization.

Privatization will make health care services more accessible to veterans, because beneficiaries will be allowed to seek treatment from both the VA system and those outside the VA system. The government will provide funds and subsidies to non-VA hospitals in order for them to provide health care to these veterans. This means that the veterans will be able to access health care services easily in their local areas without necessarily having to look for VA hospitals.

The new administration highly advocates for VA health care privatization because it believes that privatization will enhance the quality of health services for veterans. However, they propose that the privatization should be partial in nature, so that beneficiaries may have a public-private option. Under the new privatization move, U.S. veterans will have the option to seek medical care from either private health care institutions or public VA systems. The move to privatize VA health care will create more choices for veterans, unlike the traditional system that limits veterans to specific options.

The Elimination of Bureaucracy

If the privatization of VA health care is successfully achieved, some bureaucratic requirements may be eliminated permanently. The law that allows veterans to use community providers only if they have been waiting more than 30 days or reside 40 miles from a VA facility will no longer be applicable. Instead, the veterans will access services from community providers regardless of the waiting time or the distance from a VA facility.

Unlike Medicaid, Medicare and TRICARE subsidized programs, the veterans’ health care program is not obligated to release data on quality, patient experience or cost-effectiveness of service delivery. This lack of transparency will no longer be a concern after the privatization of VA health care, because accountability will be required from private veteran health care providers in order to demonstrate the efficacy and quality of services offered.

What are the main concerns around privatized VA health care?

Stakeholders who believe that veteran issues will not be effectively handled if the plan goes through have criticized VA health care privatization. The quality of services may be compromised because they will be fragmented and uncoordinated. Veterans have multiple injuries and medical conditions that, in some cases, may not be handled under one roof. Most private hospitals do not specialize in treating military and combat injuries, and for this reason, veterans would not get good services if VA health care is privatized.

However, if the federal government achieves its goal of privatizing VA health care, it means that all non-VA doctors and clinics will be required to meet certain VA qualifications or standards before they can be allowed to provide services to veterans. Similarly, a proper coordination mechanism will have to be put in place, because veterans will have the option to visit any convenient VA or non-VA health care provider.