Hospitals

Trump Weighs Letting Veterans Opt Out of V.A. Medical Care



 

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — President-elect Donald J. Trump is considering a plan to allow military veterans to opt out of medical care at Veterans Affairs hospitals and instead see private doctors of their choosing, a senior transition official told reporters here on Wednesday.

Mr. Trump met with several executives of private hospital systems at his Mar-a-Lago estate on Wednesday. After the meeting, Mr. Trump called out to reporters, saying he wanted to describe his ideas for changes to the Department of Veterans Affairs, but then quickly directed one of his senior aides to describe the proposals under consideration.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, provided no details about how the plans would work, how much they would cost, or the possibility of unintended consequences from privatizing part of the V.A.’s sprawling medical system.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump repeatedly seized on reports of long waits for doctor visits at V.A. hospitals to criticize Hillary Clinton and President Obama. On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump told reporters that he was concerned about the impact on veterans’ health.

“We’re working on something to make it great for the veterans,” he said, adding: “People are dying. We’re going to fix it properly.”

The ideas described by the transition aide on Wednesday echoed vague promises Mr. Trump made on the campaign trail that veterans would get timely care from either a V.A. facility or a private doctor. The transition official said that Mr. Trump had discussed the possibility of a “public-private option” with the hospital executives.

“Some vets love the V.A.,” the official said, and “some vets want to go to the V.A.” The official added that “the idea is to come up with a solution that solves the problem.”

Asked whether the president-elect was “advanced” in his thinking on how to confront the V.A.’s problems, the official said, “Of course.” The official then added, referring to the possibility of private care: “It’s one of the options on the table. Definitely an option on the table to have a system where potentially vets can choose” to receive a combination of public and private care or simply opt to go to private doctors.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has struggled to provide timely care to many veterans, and even its supporters say it needs an overhaul. News reports in 2014 said that dozens of veterans had died while waiting for care at a V.A. hospital in Phoenix, and that leaders of the agency had hidden delays and collected bonuses. Eric Shinseki, Mr. Obama’s first secretary of veterans affairs, resigned after a White House investigation found similar manipulations at dozens of hospitals.

But veterans groups and Democrats strongly oppose any move toward privatization. In an August speech to the Disabled American Veterans, Mr. Obama warned that ideas like the ones floated by Mr. Trump should be rejected.

“We cannot outsource and privatize health care for America’s veterans,” Mr. Obama said to applause. “Now, there are folks who keep pushing this. They don’t always come out and say the word ‘privatize,’ but you read what they say, that’s what they mean. And these radical proposals would begin to dismantle the V.A. health care system that millions of veterans depend on every day. And that would hurt veterans.”

Mr. Trump met on Wednesday afternoon with John H. Noseworthy, the president of the Mayo Clinic; Paul Rothman, the chief executive of Johns Hopkins Medicine; David Torchiana, the chief executive of Partners HealthCare; Delos Cosgrove, the chief executive of the Cleveland Clinic; and several others. The transition official said Mr. Trump was considering asking members of that group to form an advisory committee to help him reshape the V.A.

H/T nytimes.com

Facebook Comments

Most Popular

To Top