Understanding the Veterans Independence Act
If you’re following politics or news on veterans much, you have probably heard wind of the Veterans Independence Act. The Veterans Independence Act is a proposal put together by Concerned Veterans for America. This article will talk about why the VIA is needed, the effects it will have, and some of the criticism of it. For the full text of the VIA, you can read the full proposal.
There’s been some bad press on the VIA, and a lot of misunderstanding of what the plan proposes. However, there is no question that most veterans want reform. From Avik Roy, a writer for Forbes:
Last fall, Concerned Veterans for America and the Tarrance Group conducted a nationwide survey of over 1,000 veterans. 88 percent of respondents agreed that eligible veterans should be given the choice to receive medical care from any source that they themselves choose. 95 percent said it was “extremely” or “very important” to have the option to seek the best possible care, even if that means getting that care outside a VA facility.
Most impressively, 77 percent of veterans thought it was “extremely” or “very important” to give veterans more choices in their insurance products, even if those alternatives involved higher out-of-pocket costs like co-pays and deductibles.
While the leadership of some veteran groups are opposed to reform, it is difficult to look at the VA wait list scandal of last year and read other stories of things that are going on right now and say that reform is not needed. The VIA does a good job of addressing the major problems with VA healthcare while taking into consideration concerns about reform brought up by both sides of the aisle.
What the VIA Proposes
This is just a summary of the main points of the VIA. For the full proposal, please visit the link above. The first thing the VIA does allow veterans to choose to seek care with a private provider if they choose. They can still obtain care from a VA facility with no co-pays or deductibles, but they will be subject to those extra costs when using private care. This makes the VA a more fiscally attractive option. However, that means that if the VA health facilities want to stay in business, they will need to compete. To help that happen in a productive way, the VIA also proposes turning the VA’s health care facilities into the Veterans Accountable Care Organization (VACO). Accountable care organizations (ACOs) help ensure higher-quality health care through coordination of patient care if multiple doctors are involved and through accountability for the care given. Establishing VACO will allow the VA’s health offering to be benchmarked with comparable ACOs like the Mayo clinic. The VIA also proposes that these changes be phased in to give the VA time to evolve with the changes.
Some Criticisms of the Veterans Independence Act
Most of the criticism of the VIA falls under the category of “it won’t do what it says it will”. In other words, it won’t have the effects that it claims it will. On a fiscal level, critics say that co-pays and deductibles are all well and good, but short of charging monthly premiums (which would require the veteran to choose VA or private far in advance with no flexibility until the next enrollment period) there’s no way that it won’t be more costly to taxpayers than the current model. On an efficacy level, critics point out that many doctors don’t accept Medicaid patients due to the low reimbursement rate, and that the VIA’s proposal will have the same problem. While these criticisms are legitimate, they are things that can be addressed as long as those in power are willing to work together to address them.
The Veterans Independence Act is a strong step in the right direction. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s far superior to the status quo and to anything else that’s been proposed up to this point. In the survey mentioned above, a vast majority of veterans said that it’s important to have the things that the VIA is proposing to implement, and no one knows better than veterans the best ways to improve veterans’ health care.