To Fix Medicare, Let Seniors Join the VA

Richard Hanson | Grand Forks Herald | March 3, 2012

By nearly all measures, the VA outperforms Medicare. It makes sense, then, to make room in the VA for civilians aged 65 or older.

Medicare is out of control. In 20 years, it’ll eat a fourth of the budget. But long before then, we’ll reach a point where half of all federal spending will depend on borrowed money. After that, we’ll get a new nickname: Greece. To avoid this bleak future, we must control our deficits. That means fixing Medicare...

Both Democratic and Republican plans are insufficient. What, then, can we do to flatten Medicare’s hockey-stick growth curve? Phillip Longman, a senior research fellow with the New America Foundation, explores a tantalizing idea in a Washington Monthly story titled, “The Best Care Anywhere.” His plan? Let seniors join the VA.

Though once criticized for lackluster care, the Veterans Health Administration remade itself in the 1990s. Now, the VA is without equal. In 2005, the illustrious National Committee for Quality Assurance ranked the VA higher on 17 performance measures than any health care provider in America, including Mayo Clinic.

How does the VA do it? For one thing, it is nonprofit, which removes a temptation to overtreat and overbill. Second, its long-term relationship with patients gives the VA an economic incentive to invest in preventive care...