MAULDIN, SC — Over barbecue and sweet tea with 12 veterans here Friday, Mitt Romney appeared to brainstorm a fundamental change to the way the nation pays back the people who put their lives on the line in the military.
Talking with the veterans about the challenge of navigating the Veterans Affairs bureaucracy to get their health care benefits after they leave active duty, Romney suggested a way to improve the system would be to privatize it.
“Sometimes you wonder, would there be someway to introduce some private sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose whether they want to go on the government system or the private system and then it follows them, like what happens with schools in Florida where they have a voucher that follows them. Who knows.”
The idea is similar to Romney’s plan for Medicare, which wold allow recipients to choose a private plan instead of the classic government-run health care structure.
The plan did not go over well with one veteran among the 12 discussing the VA with Romney. Auston Thompson, a veteran of the Iraq War and former Marine, told TPM after the session that though the idea of the plan was sound to his fiscally conservative ear, the implementation would likely lead to problems.
“Eventually it would become too much of a nuisance,” Thompson said. He doubted a voucher system would cover the benefits like the existing VA system does. “Private health care is already so expensive, you’d need some kind of health care reform to make it work.”
Jerry Newberry, a spokesman for Veterans Of Foreign Wars, told TPM his group has long opposed policies along the lines of Romney’s proposal.
“The VFW doesn’t support privatization of veterans health care,” he said. “This is an issue that seems to come around every election cycle.”
Here’s some video of Romney spit-balling his plan, captured and clipped by the Democratic-leaning trackers at American Bridge: