Robert Levinson, senior defense analyst, and Megan Howard, congressional reporter from Bloomberg Government, discuss a proposed joint Defense Department and Veterans Affairs health contract, and why the proposal has some in Congress upset.
The Defense Health Agency announced that the DoD-VA Health Care Staffing Services initiative has reached the “strategy development stage.” The plan may merge parts of health systems at the two departments, to provide better care for both veterans and active service members. Robert Levinson, senior defense analyst at Bloomberg Government, says that because the two hospital networks are incredibly different, industry will be key to the merger. “The Military Health System, a lot of it is contracted out care. DoD has some hospitals, about 300 and change. VA’s got 1600. Most of the VA care is in house. They’ve just started this community care program which allows veterans to go outside for care,” Levinson said. “But these are very different models and I think they want to talk to industry and figure out ‘Where is the balance, how would we fit industry into these?” Megan Howard, congressional reporter at Bloomberg Government, says that Congress has some concerns about the plan, since it is being developed without their involvement. “Back in 2017, this issue came up a little bit when there were some White House talks that lawmakers felt they had been left out of. People have been pushing for more transparency from the department, but it doesn’t seem like lawmakers have been that involved in these conversations. Which is really interesting in light of some of the other issues that lawmakers have been complaining about, feeling like they’re left out of internal conversations, and officials and lawmakers seem like they’ve been sparring recently.” UPDATE: The Department of Veterans Affairs contacted Government Matters after the airing of this report, and offered the following statement — “The Health Care Staffing Service (HCSS) initiative is not a proposal to merge healthcare systems. The HCSS initiative is a VA/DoD Joint Executive Committee (JEC) priority to assess the feasibility of a joint contract for medical professionals (i.e. physicians, nurses, and ancillary services) that could serve both departments.”