Incentives work; our country got what it paid for, even as some two dozen vets died while waiting for health care they’d been promised.
A problem this large requires large changes. Instead of politics as usual, calls for investigations, etc., policymakers should think big.
The first step is to help the vets. Congress wanted to ensure that those who’ve served our country would have access to quality health care. So lawmakers should declare that, for the time being, any vet can see any doctor he needs to. Start at the VA, certainly. But if the people there say they cannot see you, you should be free to go to any hospital of health care facility. The federal government could provide vouchers to pay for such care.
This is, of course, open to manipulation. But we are talking about veterans, people who’ve put their lives on the line for our country. We can trust them to do the right thing and only use vouchers if they truly need to.
There’s no doubt this could be expensive. But consider the flood of wrongful death suits that could be filed in the months and years ahead by survivors of those vets who’ve already died while waiting for medical care. Providing vets the care they need (and thus keeping the promise we’ve made to them) could be far less expensive than settling lawsuits down the road.
In the long-term, the country needs a new approach. The problem with the VA is it got the incentives wrong. The VA’s phony lists were all about rationing. Instead, we need to get the bureaucracy re-focused on helping vets.
There’s no bureaucratic solution available. Instead, we need Congress to begin transitioning the VA toward consumer-centered care that’s responsive to markets. Such changes are a long way off. But it would be a scandal if we ignored veterans while waiting for them to occur.