You may have noticed that there is a pandemic going on right now, one that has already cost the lives of nearly 170,000 Americans with many officials thinking the total is actually much higher after examining the number of excess deaths that have taken place in the last six months in comparison with a similar period last year.
Judging from the actions of the Trump administration, however, one might be convinced that they have managed to ignore that simple fact as they carelessly stumble forward with their agenda that seemingly includes the destruction of every federal institution serving the interests of America’s citizens, almost as if they were following the direction of some evil foreign power bent on decreasing the power and influence of our formerly great nation.
It’s difficult to envision any other explanation for the news reported by Politico that Trump’s Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is proposing a drastic reduction in the health care budget for our armed forces, slashing it by $2.2 billion when the need for medical resources is greater than it’s ever been.
It is a proposal that some defense officials — who have grown accustomed to an open purse when it comes to military expenditures — have said “could effectively gut the Pentagon’s health care system during a nationwide pandemic,” as Politico writes.
“The proposed cut to the military health system over the next five years is part of a sweeping effort Esper initiated last year to eliminate inefficiencies within the Pentagon’s coffers. But two senior defense officials say the effort has been rushed and driven by an arbitrary cost-savings goal, and argue that the cuts to the system will imperil the health care of millions of military personnel and their families as the nation grapples with Covid-19,” the publication states.
Currently, the military medical system serves around 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees, and their dependents through federal government-run facilities in hundreds of locations around the world.
Senior Pentagon officials want to tighten the budgets in an attempt to make the health care system more efficient rather than finding savings through the cancelation of experimental advanced weapons systems that they spend billions on developing.
One Pentagon official tried to downplay the potential effects of the health budget cuts by telling Politico that they will be “conditions-based and will only be implemented to the extent that the [military health system] can continue to maintain our beneficiaries access to quality care, be it through our military health care facilities or with our civilian health care provider partners.”
Another anonymous defense official was less sanguine about the cuts and the process that was used to arrive at the proposal.
“A lot of the decisions were made in dark, smoky rooms, and it was driven by arbitrary numbers of cuts,” said one senior official familiar with the process. “They wanted to book the savings to be able to report it.”
“It imperils the ability to support our combat forces overseas,” added a second senior official, arguing that Esper’s moves are damaging the ability to protect the health of active-duty troops in military theaters abroad. “They’re actively pushing very skilled medical people out the door.”
Indeed one of the largest worries about the cuts is that they “would degrade military hospitals to the point that they will no longer be able to sustain the current training pipeline for the military’s medical force, potentially necessitating something akin to a draft of civilian medical workers into the military” at a time when the number of medical personnel in the civilian world is in tight supply.
With private healthcare being more expensive than the government-provided medical services, any overflow of patients from the military system to the overcrowded private sector could “hurt combat medical capability without actually saving money,” according to the concerned Pentagon officials.
Sounds like a plan that should have Kremlin officials overjoyed as well as being a windfall for private health care companies who would reap the extra money from the new influx of patients.
All the more reason to check your voter registration to make sure it’s up to date and to vote this administration out of office in a record landslide in November.
Original reporting by Lara Seligman and Dan Diamond at Politico.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.