...When I ran for office, one of the issues I talked about was called the Heroes Health Card. And it was a very simple concept. The idea was, Look, if you’re a veteran anywhere in Alaska, you’ll be able to show this card and get access to our Indian Health Service clinics. Which are all over the state, and they’re run by our tribes here. And very successful. If you ask CMS and any of the health care monitors, they’ll tell you our health care system is the best. And, so we have great quality care in very remote areas. Example: Nome, Alaska—$180 million dollar hospital up there, native hospital. Beautiful hospital. But veterans up there would have to fly to Anchorage or Seattle to get care. Because we have no veteran’s hospital! And so we said, 'Wait a second, here. Why can’t these veterans, native or non-native, walk across the street, get their care, if they want, and we reimburse them?' Oh— Everyone said, 'Bad idea. Can’t be done.' I actually have a memo that they wrote! And so, I took General Shinseki—Secretary Shinseki—to rural Alaska, out into the villages, and I had him sit with some veterans. And it wasn’t long after that that we got the Health and Human Services Department and the VA to sit down and write out a memorandum of understanding between those guys and our tribes. We have over twenty-six tribes now. And they deliver care everywhere in Alaska to any veteran who wants it. So what’s happening? Two-and-a-half years ago, we were able to put a line item in the VA budget, specifically for this program. Now, think about that. That was two-and-a-half years ago. Right? When no one was yet talking about the VA. Go in the records of the VA Committee I sit on, or floor statements I’ve made, I talk about this all the time. And no one paid attention! And we said, 'This is a solution to create access...'Funny. No one talks about the Indian Health Service as a model of socialism, a successful one.
Monday, October 27, 2014
Senator Mark Begich - Esquire: