Friday, 20 March 2009

Taking “Absolutely Not” for an Answer on Veterans’ Healthcare

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Korean War veteran David Conrad listened to the changes that were being made at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Marion, Illinois. AP ImagesIn early March, veterans’ groups got wind of a plan by the Obama administration to charge veterans’ private health insurance companies for service-related injuries. “Currently,” according to, “veterans’ private insurance is only charged when they receive health care from the VA for medical issues that are not related to service injuries, like the flu.” Veterans are worried that the proposed plan would cause their private insurance rates to skyrocket and quickly max out their private insurance.

Though Obama spokesmen would not initially confirm or deny such a proposal, 11 of the most prominent veterans’ groups sent a letter to President Obama indicating their disdain for such a plan. At that time several senators from both major political parties also advised against such a plan, saying it would be dead on arrival if it hit the Senate floor.

Despite this vehement reaction, and despite the fact that senators and representatives would likely be committing political suicide by angering the approximately 23 million veterans in our country, President Obama was not dissuaded from pushing this idea. On March 16, Obama told the heads of Veterans’ groups that he wanted to pass this measure because, in his view, private insurance companies were getting off too easy. Apparently he feels that the millions of veterans who receive care for service-connected disabilities should be dumped in the lap of insurance companies because the government is having fiscal problems and would like very much to renege on its responsibility to take care of Americans who were injured while serving their country.

Sgt. Daryl Williams sits in his hospital bed after being injured by a sniper. AP ImagesThe push by Obama to transfer the cost of care to private insurance should not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Democrats’ dialogue as they discuss “healthcare reform.” Their proposals all lead toward increased government control of medical care, less access to care for patients, and a shifting of costs to the private sector (along with casting all blame for failing government medical plans on the private sector). For instance, though Obama lambasted John McCain while running for president over McCains’ proposal to tax private health benefits provided by employers, Obama is said to be “open” to such a proposal because it is a source of revenue for the government.

Late in the day on March 18, the Obama administration conceded defeat over the proposal to charge VA medical care for service-related injuries to private insurance companies; however, Americans won’t be so fortunate when politicians begin reshaping medical care wholesale. Then a similar form of “change” will prevail, unless there is the same type of unified, outraged response that the veterans showed toward this plan.

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