My fellow Washington Monthlyite James Fallows mocks Trump’s claim that “illegal immigrants are taken better care of than our veterans.” This is “not true,” Fallows says, “and no one who has thought about it for more than one second could imagine otherwise.” He points to the GI-Bill and federal hiring preferences, but runs into trouble when he hits health care and the VA. Fallows writes:
The VA hospital system has had numerous, serious, well-publicized problems. On the other hand it exists (unlike some notional Illegal Immigrants Hospital System), and before the recent scandals it was often studied and cited as a model of progressive medical practices. Many millions of veterans receive medical care through the VA. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare, treatment under Obamacare exchanges, or most private insurance coverage and generally rely on emergency rooms or cash-up-front treatment centers. ** [Emphasis added.]
Jim! So before we discovered that VA care was scandalously awful, we thought it was a model!*** And before we learned we were losing the Vietnam war, we were told we were winning it! How is that evidence against Trump, as opposed to those who did the studies? Given what we know now about veterans’ health care, it’s entirely possible that illegal immigrants who are treated in emergency rooms at good hospitals wind up getting better care than vets who play by the rules at the VA. Indeed, I’ve talked to enough liberal, compassionate doctors who rage about all the expensive, unpaid care illegals get that their patients can’t get — one of these docs was attending a Dem event at Matt Miller’s! – to suspect that this indeed the case. Trump is onto something.
P.S.: It doesn’t seem very Washington Monthlyesque to take the existence of a large bureaucracy as evidence citizens are being well-served, or to believe studies of various officially reported outcomes — which in the VA’s case turned out to be crude examples of what TWM founder Charles Peters called “Washington Make-Believe” — over actual accounts of what is happening on the ground.
Update: If you listen to the audio, Trump actually said: “And in many cases, illegal immigrants are taken much care, really are taken much better care, by this country, taken care of than our veterans.” Fallows leaves out Trump’s initial qualifier. If you stick it back in, what Trump said is almost certainly true.
Backfill: D.A. King wrote about the disparity in 2007 — including the 2003 introduction of a means-test for VA care (and why you don’t want to wind up in “Category 8g”).
Alert Reader Alert: If you have experience, positive or negative, with veterans’ care — or with illegal immigrant care, for that matter — please write about it either in the comments below or on Twitter. That seems like the fastest way to get at the truth. Thanks.
**– What Fallows doesn’t say: Illegals can get free federally-subsidized care even if they don’t qualify for Medicaid under a program called “emergency Medicaid.” This includes maternity care and (in some states) dialysis and chemotherapy. I’m not saying they shouldn’t get it (or should get it). I’m saying it might be better than VA care, or other care that vets get.
***– Even before the scandal broke, Reason’s Peter Suderman criticized Paul Krugman when Krugman touted the VA as a model of “progressive” care. Suderman’s piece describes the VA’s “priority group” system, which, even on paper, makes the agency more useful to some vets than to others. Maybe Trump was talking about the others.