MAULDIN, S.C., Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Meeting with about a dozen veterans in South Carolina, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney suggested privatizing the healthcare system of military veterans.
At a campaign stop at Mutt's BBQ restaurant in Mauldin, S.C., Romney discussed his vision for veterans' healthcare, which is similar to his vision for Medicare -- introducing "private sector competition" through vouchers instead of the government-run TRICARE, which provides civilian health benefits for military personnel, military retirees and their dependents, ABC News reported.
"If you're the government, they know there's nowhere else you guys can go, you're stuck," Romney told the veterans. "Sometimes you wonder if there would be some way to introduce private sector competition, somebody else who could come in and say each solder has 'X' thousand dollars attributed to them and then they can choose where they want to go in the government system or the private system with the money that follows them. Like what happens with schools in Florida where people have a voucher that goes with him."
In Washington, Democrats pulled out an old proposal of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to privatize the VA in 2008 and said veterans groups did not embrace the proposal then.
In a statement to the Talking Points Memo Web site, Jerry Newberry, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said: "The VFW doesn't support privatization of veterans healthcare. This is an issue that seems to come around every election cycle."
The Pentagon has been considering ways to economize on healthcare costs, which rose from almost $20 billion annually in 2001 to $53 billion currently. There are almost twice as many U.S. veterans than activity duty military.