Michael Cannon, a health policy expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, has proposed a radical idea to reform the healthcare system that provides medical treatment and care to our nation’s service members via the Department of Veterans Affairs. Cannon proposes that the government make troops pay for their own healthcare in exchange for higher salaries.
In an essay published last week, Cannon proposed dropping “free” healthcare that is provided to soldiers and instead offering better pay to soldiers who will then purchase their own healthcare. Cannon proposed offering vouchers to veterans that are no longer serving. The vouchers would be used to pay strictly for healthcare-related costs.
The second controversial change under Cannon’s policy would privatize the Veterans Health Administration. Shares from the publicly-run company would be distributed among service members and veterans based on their time in the service. Cannon stated in the essay:
“Privatization would improve the quality of veterans’ benefits immeasurably, The federal government promises veterans’ benefits to military personnel once they leave active duty. Only it’s not an explicit promise. And Congress doesn’t fund it… As a result, Congress can — and does — renege on that commitment.”
Cannon went on to argue that, not only would his system lower the cost of healthcare, it would also discourage the government from going to war. He claims that forcing the government to “front” the cost of insurance stipends and vouchers would “make the cost of war clearer before the first shots are even fired.”
Many Democrats and veteran groups have openly opposed the privatization of VA health care on the grounds that even the most experienced non-military hospitals and physicians cannot provide proper care for service or battle-induced injuries.
Cannon acknowledges that his plan is strictly theoretical at this point. However, he claims that several republicans, including President-elect Donald Trump, have argued in favor of expanding the quantity and quality of private healthcare options for service members and veterans. He went on record saying:
“If Trump retains the VA’s basic structure, he will join a long line of presidents who have failed our nation’s veterans,”