How Americans Could Have Cheap Health Care Almost Instantly

Can’t agree on health care, how to finance it or how to cover the uninsured? Think big. And look carefully: it’s right before our eyes.

Imagine comprehensive, universal, effective and cheap health care for all Americans, essentially overnight. It would require hiring more doctors, nurses and other health professionals as well as utilizing more hospitals and medical facilities, but it would be remarkably easy compared to all the other health care proposals afloat now. That’s because the medical expertise and the infrastructure to make this possible already exist — right here in our Veterans Affairs health care system.

What we need is a new, thoroughgoing, workable solution to our health-care problems. So here is a simple proposal: Over the next decade, beginning right away with those who are currently uninsured, let’s gradually build out the VA, or a redesigned VA-like civilian system, by funding it more instead of less. If proven effective, eventually health care at the VA could be offered as an option to all Americans — regardless of socio-economic status, age, disability or preexisting conditions — paid for by all as a modest increment in taxes, but virtually free to the patient (or free with a reasonable copay).

This suggestion isn’t entirely new. A decade ago, public policy expert Phillip Longman published a detailed proposal for how this might work in his book Best Care Anywhere. So why make it again now? Because the current president has the temperament to just do it. It is the best, cheapest, fastest way that President Donald Trump and Congress, in this fractured climate, could make good on Trump’s promise that there’d be something better than Obamacare — “insurance for everybody,” as he told the Washington Post, in which everyone is “beautifully covered.”

America’s VA is one of the world’s largest federally run health-care systems. It isn’t broken. Tax-supported, with salaried physicians and rigorous practice guidelines, it is in many ways better than some private health care. There’s a reason the VA’s so effective and yet so inexpensive, compared to private health care: it stresses evidence-based treatment and coordinated care, instead of bouncing patients from one doctor to another in an open-market system. It’s hard to argue that the VA isn’t good enough, especially for those facing a future with no insurance at all. It’s comprehensive, efficient, cost-effective and, except for some modest charges…

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