Trump’s defense secretary wants to privatize military healthcare using budget cuts

Trump’s defense secretary wants to privatize military healthcare using budget cuts
President Donald J. Trump congratulates newly sworn-in Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)
Human Rights

Making America Great Again means that everyone has to sacrifice. More specifically, it means everyone but the top 1% and Donald Trump needs to sacrifice. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, a man chosen by Donald Trump, has created a “cost-cutting review” of Pentagon. On Sunday Politico reported that one of Esper’s bright ideas is to cut their healthcare budget by $2.2 billion. This move would effectively hurt around 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees, and their dependents who rely on the military health system. Also, there’s a pandemic happening right now.

That’s a lot of health care being taken away from civil servants who are serving to defend our country. It’s rather interesting that for all of the talk about our troops and the jingoism relied upon by conservatives—and ballooning defense bills—that the one place they look to cut costs in our military is … health care. However, if you’re worried about what will happen to those military folks and their families, never fear: The private market will provide!

Yes. According to Politico, Esper says that the healthcare losses in slashing $2.2 billion from the military health system can be made up by private insurance. You know, the private insurance game that has been ballooning out of control while providing less and less effective coverage for decades now? It’s important to note that the phrase being used here is “eliminate inefficiencies.” Unfortunately, while the Trump administration actually boosts and blows out how much money the Pentagon gets to play with, the nickel-and-diming of its health system is a special kind of cruelty.

Trump, realizing that this story was going to be a big problem for him, tweeted on Monday that, “A proposal by Pentagon officials to slash Military Healthcare by $2.2 billion dollars has been firmly and totally rejected by me. We will do nothing to hurt our great Military professionals & heroes as long as I am your President. Thank you!” However, the damage was already done. Trump is a lying sack of … corruption, and what he says now means nothing tomorrow.

People inside of the Defense Department are not happy with this proposal, which is why so many of them spoke as sources to Politico. The biggest grudge is that the decisions on how to cut back the budget seem to not take into account the best way to run a department of defense. At issue is not so much the money being cut, but how and where it is being cut.

“A lot of the decisions were made in dark, smoky rooms, and it was driven by arbitrary numbers of cuts,” said one senior defense official with knowledge of the process. “They wanted to book the savings to be able to report it.”

Even though our national security situation has been exposed by the current global pandemic, it is unsurprising that the Trump administration and the Republican Party continue their efforts to run the military like a private business. Their hopes are to turn our military into a privately run business, allowing war and pain and PTSD to become commodities for their donor list to make money off of. 

It’s important to note that the real practical criticism of Esper’s proposed budget cuts to the military health system are that these cuts would directly impact, right away, the number of resources available to active and retired military and their dependents. Resources like doctors. The Trump administration has seemingly only been trying to cut military budgets by way of hospitals and medical personnel. It’s depressing when one considers that the Defense Department under the Trump administration has been entirely wasteful and ineffective in its responses to things like our global pandemic, opting to not spend some money earlier on only to get gouged by private industry later.

Trying to privatize the military health system when our current civilian healthcare system is a disaster is a special kind of hubris only seen at the lowest rings of Dante’s Inferno. A budget cut I can think of off the top of my head that wouldn’t adversely affect our country’s defense nor the people who serve in our defense is cutting 100% of the budget on things like narcissistic, egomaniacal “military parades” for a worthless president.

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