Romney’s health care proposal worth another look

F or about 10 days last month, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney floated an idea that should have been of keen interest to military veterans in retiree-rich communities. He suggested partly privatizing the veterans health care system.

“Sometimes you wonder,” Romney said Nov. 11, “if there would be some way to introduce some private-sector competition, somebody else that could come in and say, you know, that each soldier gets X thousand dollars attributed to them, and then they can choose whether they want to go in the government system or in a private system with the money that follows them.”

Basically, he was describing a voucher arrangement. Military veterans would be given money for health care and then could seek out the best providers. The resulting competition between public and private health organizations would lower costs and improve service.

Veterans groups blasted the idea. Individual veterans took to websites to argue that private health care could never match the high quality of government health care and to dismiss the notion that competition would reduce costs. Especially when it comes to traumatic injuries, one wrote, “market competition driving down costs is out the window.”

Hmmm. Aren’t those arguments — that government health care is better, that market forces don’t work — the same arguments liberals have used to push for a federal takeover of America’s health care system?

Regardless, the veterans’ opposition spooked Romney. By Nov. 21 he was, as usual, flip-flopping.

“I don’t have any proposal of that nature,” he told an interviewer who had asked about privatization. “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.”

Too bad.Romney’s vision of a partly privatized VA would have injected a fresh idea into those stale GOP debates.

For the record, we’re certain that America’s privately run, for-profit health care industry — the best in the world — could hold its own, and more, against government-provided services. And we wonder how much a privatization strategy might reduce VA spending.

Perhaps another candidate could take up the idea and promote it. Ron Paul, are you listening?