Three options for replacing the Veterans Choice Program

Privatization, centralization, hybrid

Lawmakers, veterans advocates and officials within the Department of Veterans Affairs are exploring ways to move away from the Veterans Choice Program.

Here are three options being discussed:

Privatization: Create a private-sector health system for veterans that would replace the central role of VA hospitals and allow veterans to get care from any doctor in their community. Supporters of this option say that the VA has proved itself unable to adequately care for veterans, and has been overwhelmed by the need for care since 9/11 and the wars that followed. They argue that privatization of veterans care would be a better solution.

Centralization: Move away from Choice-like options, consolidate care back within VA hospitals and clinics, and boost VA funding to allow for expansion of facilities to meet veterans’ needs. Advocates for a centralized approach argue that the VA has provided care for vets for decades, and therefore is in the best position to treat them going forward – if only the agency could have more resources at its disposal. Supporters also say that many veterans would find it difficult to be thrust into a private system, and would be at risk of getting gouged or simply confused by how to navigate it.

Hybrid: VA officials acknowledge that more flexibility for veterans to seek health care privately – especially if those doctors or hospitals are closer or more convenient than traveling to a VA facility – would be helpful. Congressional leaders pushing for increased privatization also acknowledge that VA hospitals still could have a role, particularly for more complex care. This could lead to a system in which certain kinds of care and procedures are done at VA facilities and other types of care are handled by private doctors. The challenge would be to coordinate care in a smooth manner. 

[RELATED: Whistleblowers say Veterans Choice used to slash budget and care]

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