Mitt Romney: "I said we should do what with veterans' care?" (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
Rick Perry isn't the only Republican presidential candidate stepping in it lately. Here's Mitt Romney, using Veterans Day to push his vouchers for VA care
Talking with the veterans about the challenge of navigating the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy to get their health care benefits after they leave active duty, Romney suggested a way to improve the system would be to privatize it.
"Sometimes you wonder, would there be someway to introduce some private sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose whether they want to go on the government system or the private system and then it follows them, like what happens with schools in Florida where they have a voucher that follows them, who knows."
As Steve Benen reminds us, privatizing VA care was just one of the hare-brained schemes forwarded by failed Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck, before he decided he was against it. Sound familiar? Expect a flip-flop on this idea from Romney any minute now.
In the meantime, Romney's willingness to voucherize veterans' care should be a pretty big deal. For the Washington Monthly, this has been a long-time area of interest—in 2005, we published a Philip Longman piece on V.A. hospitals called, "The Best Care Anywhere."
As Longman explained at the time, "Who do you think receives higher-quality health care. Medicare patients who are free to pick their own doctors and specialists? Or aging veterans stuck in those presumably filthy VA hospitals with their antiquated equipment, uncaring administrators, and incompetent staff? An answer came in 2003, when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be 'significantly better.'… The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study that compared veterans health facilities with commercial managed-care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care."
Yep, socialized health care that provides high-quality care with excellent outcomes, and does it far less expensively than private systems. Which is why one of the veterans TPM talked to after Mittens brainstormed his bright idea panned it: "Private health care is already so expensive, you'd need some kind of health care reform to make it work." You'd think the guy who created Romneycare would have already thought of that.
1:36 PM PT: That was fast.
Asked about the idea, Veterans Of Foreign Wars spokesman Jerry Newberry quickly shot it down as a non-starter for his group.
“The VFW doesn’t support privatization of veterans health care,” he told TPM. “This is an issue that seems to come around every election cycle.”