As a veteran I can not emphasize how much of an insulting and disgraceful act this, via The Chicago Sun-Times, would be if it is true:
Q The VA Secretary was on the Hill today and he confirmed -- Secretary Shinseki -- that the administration is considering a plan to have veterans have the treatment for their service-related injuries paid for with private insurance, rather than the government. And there are a lot of veterans groups who have written to the President saying they believe this is outrageous and the government should be picking up the tab for those who served. What can you say about why the President is considering this --
MR. GIBBS: I've not seen what the VA Secretary had to say on this today, so let me go back and get a chance to read up on it.
Let us think about this one, OK?
Seventy-two percent of those questioned in recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey say they favor increasing the federal government's influence over the country's health care system in an attempt to lower costs and provide health care coverage to more Americans, with 27 percent opposing such a move. Other recent polls show six in 10 think the government should provide health insurance or take responsibility for providing health care to all Americans.
Clearly, Americans want less private and more public health care.
Gibbs better get back with better answers about that because we are not about to watch the nation screw up Veterans' care even more than the Bush administration already had. The VA's only real problems were serious underfunding by those that pay lip service to supporting the troops.
And we all know what a taxpayer boondoggle privatization of government services is.
I would be less insulted if the Obama administration said they were going to move Veterans and the uninsured, as well, to Medicare which, as the New England Medical Journal points out, is a cost saving program when compared to for-profit insurance:
Inclusion in the national insurance exchange of a public-plan option that would be open to businesses and individuals is key to achieving savings. Medicare has lower administrative costs and provider-payment rates than fee-for-service commercial insurers; if private plans did not bring down rates, a new public-plan option could offer premiums that would be 20 to 30% lower than commercial rates for similar benefits. To be competitive, private insurers would need to become more efficient and work with providers to integrate, coordinate, and redesign care to treat chronic conditions more effectively and avert preventable hospitalizations, complications, and readmissions.
The only real problem with that statement is that for private insurers to be competitive they would have to give up the idea of profit and bonuses, both of which are counterintuitive to the common good of providing better health care for everyone, rendering the idea of lowering private insurance costs argument as ridiculous.
Veterans need answers concerning Shinseki's statement.
And we need to demand these answers now. We can not solve the problems involved in veterans health issues by throwing them the anchor of a bunch of CEO's fantasy based bonuses and profits for nothing private insurance scam.
[update] From the Suburban Guerrilla, Susi Madrak, writing over at Crooks and Liars, we find that CNN poked around a bit on this and we may know enough to alleviate veterans' concerns:
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki confirmed Tuesday that the Obama administration is considering a controversial plan to make veterans pay for treatment of service-related injuries with private insurance.
But the proposal would be "dead on arrival" if it's sent to Congress, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, said.
Murray used that blunt terminology when she told Shinseki that the idea would not be acceptable and would be rejected if formally proposed. Her remarks came during a hearing before the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs about the 2010 budget.
I still would be much happier if Obama came out and said this is not in the cards but it is nice to know that on the record this would be DOA in the Senate. And it is nice to know that a couple of elections can make a difference in the sanity level in D.C..