President-elect Donald Trump is considering a “public-private” healthcare option that would allow some veterans to receive all of their medical care from private-sector physicians, according to a Trump transition team official. This radical overhaul would give veterans the option to receive care from non-VA doctors, who would then be paid by the federal government. The transition official told reporters, “It’s one of the options on the table, Definitely an option on the table to have a system where potentially vets can choose either or, or all private.”
The transition official broke news of the controversial healthcare option on Wednesday, after Trump’s meeting with healthcare executives. One of the executives to meet with Trump was Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove. Cosgrove is believed to be a front-runner for the top VA post under Trump and is a strong supporter of plans to expand veterans’ to non-VA healthcare options.
Proponents of the public-private option claim that it will expand the network of specialists that can address specific injuries while also allowing for faster appointments with shorter wait times for veterans that wish to visit VA facilities. Opponents of the public-private option argue that the move will only shift funds and resources away from VA facilities to compensate the private healthcare providers. Opponents of the plan also argue that private sector doctors are not as well suited to treat PTSD and other veteran-specific ailments as well as their VA-counterparts.
Trump campaigned on the promise to give veterans the option to seek care via the VA or private channels. His plan has be criticized as being costly. However, supporters of the public-private option argue that nearly one-third of all medical appointments conducted last fiscal year were with physicians outside the department and that the plan can be financially stable depending upon scope of the program. Trump has still not announced how many of the 9 million veterans currently using VA services will be applicable for private-sector care.
Supporters and opponents of the plan have found common ground. Both sides agree that extensive waiting lists and poor quality care provided by the VA need to be addressed. The Trump transition team has announced that the President-elect will make a decision on whether or not to implement a public-private option before announcing his VA secretary pick. No timetable has been set for announcing his VA secretary pick.