Veterans like choice.
But they don't like privatization.
That’s the bottom line from a new poll out Tuesday from the Vet Voice Foundation, designed to counter recent proposals that left-leaning advocates say would move Department of Veterans Affairs Department hospitals to an outsourced, privatization model.
The poll of 800 veterans, conducted jointly by a Republican-backed firm and a Democratic-backed one, found that almost two-thirds of survey respondents oppose plans to replace VA health care with a voucher system, an idea backed by some Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates.
"Veterans overwhelmingly feel that health care was a promise made for their service and oppose vouchers that may not cover all costs," group officials said in their report. "Veterans worry that private insurance companies care too much about profit and would make decisions for the care of veterans based on money."
The results push back poll numbers released by Concerned Veterans for America last month that found nearly 90 percent of veterans surveyed believe officials need to increase health care choices for VA patients, including expanded access to private care physicians.
They also point to a larger fight between Republicans and Democrats over VA reform efforts, and how each side is labeling moves to expand health care offerings for veterans in the private sector, but still at government expense.
"This poll confirms what nearly every veterans service organization has always said — privatization and voucherization of the VA is a nonstarter for veterans," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, managing director of the Vet Voice Foundation.
"There is a lot of debate about 'choice' in veterans care, but when presented with the details of what 'choice' means, veterans reject it," Eaton said. "They overwhelmingly believe that the private system will not give them the quality of care they and veterans like them deserve."
The new Vet Voice poll also hints that the issue could be a factor in the 2016 elections, with 57 percent of those surveyed stating they would be less likely to vote for candidates who support "privatizing the VA health care system."
Only one in four said that stance would strengthen their support for a candidate.
Major veterans advocates have long opposed proposals for privatization, but have been more cautious in their use of the term in recent years, as lawmakers have backed initiatives to increase private care access, like the Choice Card program.
Full details of the poll are available on the foundation’s website.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.