Is Socialized Medicine Beneficial for Veterans?
Varying schools of thought exist regarding the idea of socialized versus privatized healthcare, in particular how it affects our nation’s veteran population. As the 2020 presidential election nears, many voters are eyeing candidates’ stances on healthcare as this remains a national issue without an easy solution. Caring for our military members as they retire or return from tours of duty is an important priority — but what form of healthcare is best? Let’s take a look at the two different sides.
Is Socialized Medicine the Best Solution?
As it stands now, healthcare options for veterans are handled through the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Health Administration. For all intents and purposes, this form of healthcare — in which veterans are given primary and specialized care from government employed doctors and medical professionals — is a prime example of socialized medicine.
While most other citizens are a part of the existing privatized healthcare sector, veterans are able to seek care at government owned facilities in a more socialized format. This does have some limitations, however, and these limitations can have severe consequences.
Let’s say that a veteran is in need of immediate care. In some cases, regardless of whether or not the patient seeks care in a private or a public office, wait times for an appointment can run in excess of two weeks. While research shows that wait times for appointments within the VHA system are about the same or, in some cases, shorter than those in the private healthcare sector, the risk still remains that in some areas veterans may be stuck waiting longer than average for an appointment. In instances where a veteran needs immediate or urgent care, this can pose an issue. Some areas, particularly more rural areas of the country, may suffer from longer wait times due to understaffing or lack of funding.
Another strong drawback of socialized medicine is the dependence this system has on the government. Because veteran healthcare is, at the end of the day, the responsibility of the government, this means that services can be put at risk during times of instability. With the current political state of our country, the future of healthcare remains in the balance. Some candidates argue that a single-payer healthcare system is the only solution — but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, a healthcare system that is entirely dependent on one entity and is completely free of any competition runs a serious risk should the government experience tumult.
What About Private Sector Healthcare Options for Veterans?
The reality is that allowing veterans to seek healthcare options outside of the existing VHA network is beneficial. Why so? Let’s go back to the concept of wait times or access to care in rural areas. In some instances, veterans find themselves without as many options as their peers who have private, network health insurance. In these cases, a veteran may find him or herself without immediate care because their provider options are limited to the VHA system.
In addition, there are some veterans who have been polled with opinions that veterans should have access to a choice of provider. A poll conducted by Concerned Veterans for America that asked 1,000 veterans for their opinions showed that 88% of those surveyed believed that veterans should be able to choose their medical care providers. In addition, 95% of the veterans surveyed agreed that they should be able to seek the best possible healthcare options, even if this means venturing outside of the VHA network.
The Democratic party has long worked to completely privatize veteran healthcare. But is this the best option? It takes looking at the bigger picture and weighing the benefits and consequences of such a decision and, most importantly, how it will affect our veterans. Primary issues facing the Veterans Health Administration currently include funding, staffing, and training. Why not instead focus resources and taxpayer money on improving the existing services available through the VHA?
Providing our nation’s military servicemembers and veterans with top quality care should be the biggest priority for our lawmakers. Yet we still find ourselves in the midst of conflict, caught between sides that seem to care more for partisan victories than the care, protection, and safety of our veterans. Socialized medicine has some serious drawbacks that can have devastating effects on veterans who desperately need care. They should have options for this care, and they should also not have to worry about potential government instability affecting their healthcare. This should be our primary focus as we move towards any sort of healthcare change or reform.