Why 'Medicare for All' Is Bad for Veterans

Healthcare in America is one of the most contentious and complex issues in current politics. Medicare for All was one of the main topics dividing candidates in the 2020 Democratic party primary elections. Medicare for All would be a significant reform of the broken healthcare system that has plagued the United States for too long. However, many people disagree that it will improve conditions for everyone.

One large group of people at risk of having reduced options under Medicare for All is veterans. The VA healthcare system can be challenging to navigate and gain access to, and it is currently supplemented by outside care providers and other programs like TRICARE.

Medicare for All

Medicare for All is a proposed solution to the healthcare problems in the United States. It would be a single-payer healthcare system, which means that one public or quasi-public agency would take over responsibility for the financing of all healthcare in the country. A single-payer system would eliminate the competition between private healthcare insurance companies and their control over the availability and affordability of healthcare.

The United States is the only holdout among developed nations to not yet adopt a universal healthcare system. The inequity and inequality of healthcare available in the U.S. is a major problem that impacts many different communities and demographics. The Affordable Care Act took some steps towards improving and expanding healthcare insurance coverage, but it is not a complete solution, nor was it meant to provide universal healthcare.

VA disability requirements maintain that veterans are not able to be covered by both Medicare and VA benefits at the same time. If Medicare is expanded, it could cannibalize some aspects of current veteran healthcare.


TRICARE is a system of 11 different plans that veterans are able to choose from in order to best fit their personal needs. Opponents of Medicare for All have put forth the idea that the dismantling of TRICARE would hurt the military by reducing its morale and recruitment. TRICARE is seen as a major benefit to veterans in exchange for their service.

For veterans that had access to and chose to purchase TRICARE coverage, Medicare for All may limit or eliminate their current options. TRICARE is a premium in options and cost, but if it is eliminated, veterans will either be stuck with the inferior VA system or on the same playing field as the general public.

VA System

The VA is no stranger to the problems that have degraded the American healthcare system. The VA leans heavily on other healthcare providers to meet the needs of its members while still having issues with waitlist times for claims and medical care.

After a scandal in 2014, the VA expanded its use of outside health care by over 50%, which improved the availability some. Arguments against the VA system point out that historically VA care costs more than comparable health care from the private sector. The expansion of private healthcare options through VA coverage has helped this, although it shows that veterans restricted to VA care may be better served under a different system.

Under the provisions of the most recently proposed version of Medicare for All, the government-managed portions of the VA healthcare system would remain intact. This preservation is a mixed bag of good and bad for veterans since many of them dislike the bureaucracy of needing VA approval before receiving care.

Recently, the VA MISSION Act expanded urgent-care coverage for veterans by civilian healthcare providers. This may be undone by Medicare for All, but that remains to be seen.

Examples from Overseas

In the U.K. healthcare system, known as the National Health Service, veterans only have priority for service-related conditions, and in other cases, veterans are in the same pool of patients as civilians. Veterans typically have a myriad of health problems from their time in military service, many of which are not explicitly “service-related.” Giving veterans access to exclusive programs like TRICARE is a bonus to veteran compensation.

Author’s Bio: Sarah Douglass

Sarah Douglass has been writing all her life. What started as a passion soon became her life goal. At such a young age, she has already faced and overcame many obstacles. The instinct she developed through her life experience is coupled with an in-depth knowledge of the legal field. Sarah sees writing as a means to connect to others and help them overcome hard times.