The Senate and the House have managed to agree on something. In a rather surprising turn of events, both houses of Congress have come together on a compromised Veterans Affair reform bill after several weeks of negotiation. It’s not perfect legislation by any means, but it is better than further public bickering. Some of the highlighted details of the bill come by way of CBS News:
- The bill allows veterans who have been waiting more than 30 days for treatment or who live more than 40 miles from a VA facility to seek treatment from a private physician.
- It provides the VA with $10 billion in emergency funds, principally to cover the cost of veterans who will be seeking treatment at private clinics and hospitals.
- The bill also provides the VA with additional long term funds.
- The bill also enables service members on the GI bill (and their spouses) to get in-state tuition at whichever public college/university they attend.
- It authorizes funding for 27 additional leases for VA facilities around the country — mostly community clinics.
- The bill gives VA managers more authority to fire people. An employee who is fired will have a week to appeal the firing.
This comes as good news for President Barack Obama, who has seen his popularity plummet over the past year due partly to the VA scandals. A poll from June showed that a stunning 97% of Americans agree that the problems in the VA are serious, and more than 80% of respondents place at least part of the blame at the president’s feet. Of course, the issues within the department can’t wholly be blamed on Obama – many of the central problems date back to Bush’s time in office – but there’s no question that he has been derelict in demonstrating leadership.
The real slap in the face comes from how adamant candidate Obama was with his criticism of the American healthcare system in the run-up to his original election. Of course, he had to throw surgeons and private insurance companies under the bus to get his Obamacare platform off the ground. Those criticisms in retrospect sound absolutely foolish. Not because he was necessarily wrong, but because it’s been shown in both the VA situation and the ACA that the government can not do a better job with public health. There are certainly problems in the healthcare system, but they can’t be solved by growing the government.
Unfortunately, the administration is unlikely to learn the most important lesson of all from the VA’s failings. The left will claim that somehow more regulation and less privatization will finally fix all the ailments of the healthcare situation. No one expects to see the VA privatized in the foreseeable future, but there is still time to pump the brakes on the ACA and the continuing calls for universal healthcare. If you want to see what that would look like on a national scale, you need look no further than the VA scandals.