So much for that idea. Mitt Romney is rapidly walking back a proposal to partially privatize VA care after a wave of criticism from Democrats and veterans groups.
“I have no proposal of that nature,” Romney told the Nashua Telegraph on Monday. “We had a group of veterans and said, ‘tell me about the quality of your care.’ Some were concerned about the quality of their health care. I said, ‘what kind of options do you have, what do you think about a system that let you go to private as well as VA hospitals?’ The response was mixed, but I don’t have any proposal of that nature. We have a VA system that needs to be improved and I’ve got no plans to change that other than to make it better and to invest more money in providing for our veterans.”
Earlier this month in South Carolina, Romney floated the idea of a voucher system, telling a crowd at a BBQ restaurant: “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.”
Democrats pounced with a web video highlighting the remarks. And Retired General Wesley Clark threw a parting shot at Romney as he retreated on the issue at a press conference on Monday.
“I’m not sure exactly what Governor Romney was proposing — what I’ve seen, he throws out an idea, he takes back the idea,” Clark said in response to a question from TPM. “But I wouldn’t want our veterans to depend on vouchers for their care. When men and women join the United States Armed Forces we have an obligation as a nation to support them…I don’t believe it’s appropriate to trust that to a private voucher system. The VA hospitals are set up to focus on the kind of care our veterans need and we should emphasize that as this president has done.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.