Experts wary of providers wading into political, clinical challenge of caring for veterans
VA facilities understand the needs of the population while the private healthcare system could struggle to serve veterans.
Providers have the potential to capture some of the healthcare population and federal dollars of the Department of Veterans Affairs, as The White House and legislators toss around the political football of privatization.
Whether providers should or would want to get into a market healthcare policy expert Paul Keckley calls an alternate universe remains hypothetical.
But under recently proposed reforms that didn’t make it into the omnibus bill, some of the more than $180 billion budgeted to the VA had the potential to be diverted to the private sector.
“Most providers would say, if the VA will pay me at Medicare rates, on balance it’s not something we’d walk away from,” said Keckley, who runs The Keckley Report. “I think you would find in many communities, ‘I’m receptive, but we’re not prepared for a lot of what veterans health is providing.'”
The government would have to give providers incentive through compensation models to take on a population they’re not currently serving, said healthcare attorney Ben Fenton of the Fenton Law Group in Los Angeles.
Concerns about wait times and available beds at VA facilities is an argument in favor of government money going into the private sector, Fenton said.
“If it goes through and depending on how much is privatized, it will open up a new market for non-VA providers and hospitals,” Fenton said.
Whether providers should or would be willing depends on their level of expertise in dealing with veterans health issues.
“Is the hospital going to be equipped to deal with post-traumatic stress?” Fenton said.
The big issue in overhauling the VA is the clinical profile of the nine million veterans who use the system, Keckley said.
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