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May 22, 2014

Get Rid Of The VA Healthcare System

The deaths of dozens of veterans at VA facilities finally has people focusing on something everyone who has ever met a vet knows...the VA healthcare system is terrible.

So here's my solution to "fix it"...get rid of it.

There's no reason that the federal government has to be in the business of owning and running a separate health care system. Maybe it made sense after World War I when the VA was founded or after WWII when the system had to expand to deal with the influx of veterans. But that rationale, if it ever really existed, has long since disappeared.

And there seems to be a relatively simple solution at hand...put vets in the same federal worker health care system that employees across the country are already in. That way you'd just have to plus up the administrative infrastructure that already exists and avoid building a new and redundant one. There would be some important tweaks like no copays or deductibles for service related injuries. Other than that, they can be means tested the same way they are now for other services.

Obviously I haven't run the numbers on how much this would cost but the savings from eliminating 1,700 hospitals and clinics across the country would be substantial. And even if it turned out this increased costs, even a hardcore fiscal-con like me would be happy to pay for that in order to get our vets more healthcare options and better care.

If there are specialty areas like plastic surgery, traumatic brain injury or prosthetic where the VA has shown to be a leader because of their experience with these types of injuries, keep those research units intact or fold them into some like DARPA to ensure that work in those areas continues.

The VA administers the GI Bill education benefits without owning hundreds of colleges across the country, why do they have to own hospitals?

As I wrote earlier this week, conservatives (ideally joined by Republicans but usually not) need to make it clear our main argument against big government is money and it isn't some theoretical notion of the ideal republic. It's much simpler...government is very bad at most of the things it tries to do. This outrageous behavior at the VA is a perfect example of what happens when you make people dependent on a government monopoly. We need to do right by our veterans and the solution isn't that hard.

Stop trying to "fix" government or "make it work". Shrink it.

Updated: GOP healthcare expert Avik Roy has similar ideas. Not surprisingly he's more in the "fix it" mode than I am but it's clear there are much better alternatives to the current system.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:29 PM

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