Drive time should never beat quality in veterans’ health care

Contact: Brett Copeland
202-210-8879 | execdirector@veteranspolicy.org

For Immediate Release

VHPI warns that the VA’s new privatization scheme will ultimately limit veterans’ choice of high quality health care providers

(Washington, D.C. | January 30, 2019) – In response to Secretary Robert Wilkie’s announcement, The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute warned lawmakers and Trump Administration officials that basing VA MISSION Act access standards on drive time rather than quality would put veterans at risk and ultimately limit their options for high quality care.

“These standards will privatize veterans’ health care, plain and simple,” said VHPI senior policy analyst Russell Lemle. “They open up the floodgates for veterans to receive vouchers for private sector services. Now for the first time, dollars will follow veterans into the private sector, leaving less money and less staff available for VA facilities.”

In September 2018, VHPI responded to a VA request for public comment on implementation requirements for the VA MISSION Act. Lemle said it was apparent that a low bar for access, not high quality care, was the ultimate goal of rulemakers.

“The standards turn a blind eye to the quality of care veterans would receive in the private sector,” said Lemle. “Private sector providers are not being held accountable to the VA’s 20 or 28-day access requirements nor will they match the VA’s rigorous quality standards. Emptying the coffers to pay for inferior care in the name of convenience is a disservice to veterans.”

“The Trump Administration has bowed to private providers who demanded lower standards,” said Suzanne Gordon, a VHPI senior policy analyst and author of Wounds of War, a book about VA health care. “This plan is right out of the Koch Brothers’ Concerned Veterans for America playbook.”

In a meeting last year, leaders of some of the nation’s largest private health care networks candidly explained that there would be a ‘tradeoff’ between access and quality when outsourcing veterans’ care to the private sector. These leaders also indicated they would be unwilling to deliver care to veterans if asked to match the VA’s high standards.

“These access standards will destroy one of the most successful healthcare systems in the country, enriching shareholders while jeopardizing the health and even the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable veterans,” said Gordon.

VHPI executive director Brett Copeland warned that these funding shortfalls due to the MISSION Act could bankrupt the VA and lead to an aggressive effort to close VA facilities.

“VA wait times — the problem the MISSION Act was supposed to solve — will likely expand as fewer resources are available to hire staff,” said Copeland. “Intentional or not, this bipartisan effort to privatize the VA may ultimately limit veterans’ options for care and leave them without the choice of the VA.”

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The Veterans Healthcare Policy Institute, a non-partisan, 501(c)3 non profit organization, tank that empowers veterans and provides evidence-based information to decision makers that leads to better healthcare outcomes for veterans. VHPI  was founded by veterans and their caregivers, healthcare providers and professionals, and healthcare journalists in 2016. Learn more at veteranspolicy.org/about and on Twitter and Facebook.

Brett Copeland