Last month, ThinkProgress released a video of Colorado Senate nominee Ken Buck (R) calling for privatizing Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals during a local Tea Party meeting in June. The Buck campaign at first stuck to its guns, choosing to reiterate the nominee’s belief that the market would do a better job running VA hospitals than the public sector. Soon after, several Buck campaign spokespersons claimed that the candidate never even hinted at privatizing VA hospitals.
During an appearance this Sunday on Face The Nation, the candidate once again said he was “in favor” of allowing the private sector to operate VA hospitals. When host Bob Schieffer asked Buck if he is in favor of privatizing the VA, the candidate first claimed, “You’re getting the Democrats’ talking points.” But when Schieffer gave Buck the chance to fully explain his position on VA hospitals, he explained that he thinks “the private sector runs operations like hospitals better than the government” and that he’d be “in favor of doing something like that”:
SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about something else in the papers out there. At one point, you were over to turning hospitals in the VA over to the private sector, is that what you said?
BUCK: You’re getting the Democrats’ talking points —
SCHIEFFER: These come from newspapers, but I want to hear your side of it. Obviously that’s why I asked.
BUCK: Sure. What I said is what I was asked a question about the VA and I said if we could improve the quality and care for veterans by outsourcing some of the functions such as outsourcing a VA hospital I would be in favor of doing that. And I think that it’s important also as part of that answer, I think that we have to look at the costs. The costs can’t come out of the veterans pocket, the cost would come out of the government. But I think the private sector runs operations like hospitals better than the government, if we can reduce the deficit and increase the quality of care for veterans I’m in favor of doing something like that.
It should be noted that the VA hospital system — our one “true island of socialized medicine” — is world-renowned for its high quality of providing public, not-for-profit care for America’s veterans. A head-to-head comparison in 2003 between Medicare patients who were free to choose their own private doctors and veterans who were covered by the Veterans Health Administration, the New England Journal of Medicine found the latter “significantly better” on all 11 measures of quality. In addition, a 2006 survey found that veterans are significantly more satisfied with their care than civilians who received private care.