WSJ: Veterans Get Exempted from Health Care Bill

The Wall Street Journal
AUGUST 16, 2009
An Honorable Discharge
Democrats give veterans a pass from ObamaCare.

We’re still sorting through the health-care deal Henry Waxman struck with Blue Dog Democrats recently, but one 11th-hour revision stands out. Namely, veterans will now be “exempt from the requirements of the legislation.”

That’s how Mr. Waxman’s staff put it in a memo to reporters earlier this month, announcing amendments that the House Energy and Commerce Committee included before passing the bill 31 to 28. These changes were designed to assuage the “grave concerns” of the American Legion, Amvets and others about how their members could be penalized by new taxes and insurance regulations.

We’re delighted service members will be let off this particular hook, but why doesn’t everyone else warrant the same dispensation? Or to put it another way, Mr. Waxman is conceding that his plan will interfere with all insurance arrangements that aren’t exempted, including private options that are working well.

Yes, more than a few Democrats will claim that the Veterans Administration health program is the liberal Shangri-la: an integrated single-payer system in which government pays VA doctors directly and owns and runs VA hospitals. Yet the original House bill found even this inadequate. The VA’s benefits package, for example, doesn’t cover maternity care and, with few exceptions, doesn’t cover spouses or children. That could have exposed veterans to a 2.5% tax punishment, while other tax penalties would make it more onerous for civilian businesses to hire military reservists.

The American Legion also worried that the VA system could be “infringed by any national health care organizations or any other departments, agencies or independent organizations of the federal government.” One reason the VA works as well as it does is that it specializes in service-related disabilities and the unique needs of combat veterans. Not all veterans qualify as beneficiaries, and it doesn’t focus on basic services—allowing its limited budget to flow to the most urgent priorities.

Essentially, the veterans groups were worried that Democrats would regulate even government-run health care to death. If Democrats won’t force “universal” coverage on vets, they shouldn’t force it on anyone.

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