Give Veterans Greater Access To Quality Care, Not Health Care Credit Cards

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When faced with something as complex as ensuring veterans have timely access to the health care they need, it’s always dangerous to gravitate toward simple-sounding solutions. That’s certainly the case this election year, as “let the money follow the veteran, instead of funding VA,” has become a popular soundbite on the campaign trail and even on Capitol Hill. Yes, we need to reform veterans health care, but taking money out of the Department of Veterans Affairs and sending it into the private sector is not the cure.

Giving veterans vouchers or plastic cards that they can use to pay for health care wherever they choose may at first glance seem like an attractive idea. Unfortunately, this simplistic idea assumes that veterans will be able to readily access quality care in the private sector whenever and wherever they want. But looking at the widespread problems thatcontinue to plague the current “choice” program — such as scheduling mistakes, veterans getting billed and providers not getting paid — tells a very different story.

The reality is that today’s private-sector providers are not prepared to accept large numbers of new patients without hire vetsincurring lengthy appointment wait times. They are certainly not ready to take on the care of millions of veterans, particularly those who are severely injured and ill. Nor do most medical personnel working in the private sector have the expertise or experience treating veterans as do the full-time health care professionals working inside VA.

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