On July 28, President Trump tweeted that he would be nominating Dr. David Shulkin, a doctor, to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Shulkin is considered to be a moderate on social issues, so the question now is, what is his social and economic agenda and what are his plans for social care?
As Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. David Shulkin is considered to be a moderate on social issues, so the question now is, what is his social and economic agenda and what are his plans for social care?
A leading issue is social care. It is estimated that 42 million Americans could be eligible for it, but that the country spends $150 billion per year on it, which is 4.4 percent of the federal budget.
According to Dr. Shulkin, costs of implementing comprehensive Social Security and Medicare reform would not be covered by additional budget revenue, only by reining in Medicare’s over-treatment and overpayments, and by changing the way health care is delivered. As he wrote in the Washington Post:
Social Security and Medicare already crowd out other needs. If we want Americans to have coverage like those in other advanced countries, we need to let them have coverage like those in other advanced countries. How we reach that balance is the focus of a wide range of policy ideas. It’s good medicine.
As Shulkin has emphasized, Medicare is on an unsustainable path, and President Trump’s budget plan slashes $800 billion in Medicare spending and $600 billion in Medicaid spending over the next 10 years. That’s nothing compared to Dr. Shulkin’s plan to get Medicare and Social Security on a sustainable course.
The facts are on his side: Americans want Social Security and Medicare reforms. A June 2017 CNN poll found that 60 percent of Americans are willing to pay more tax to save them, and 84 percent of Americans think Congress should control health care costs.
However, Republicans and Democrats disagree on how to resolve these issues. The president’s budget has no plan to fix Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid, while Sen. Bernie Sanders’ plan to start a Medicare-for-all program would leave 23 million Americans uninsured and would cost the U.S. $32 trillion dollars over 10 years.
Finally, healthcare is viewed by every party as a third rail issue, meaning they fear being blamed for raising taxes, cutting entitlements, or reducing spending. Democrats would like to maintain their entitlement policies, which they argue is what has brought the country to prosperity.
A recent Gallup poll shows that 78 percent of Americans are concerned that taxes will go up in the next few years. Five percent are not concerned. Republicans, on the other hand, are more likely to want to bring healthcare costs under control while at the same time preserving the social programs. This Republican focus is a departure from the belief that increased spending has contributed to increased prosperity and increased taxes have not.
Shulkin has distinguished himself as a leader in public service. He is also a great American—even as he has served as the Secretary of the U.S. Public Health Service from 2009-2014. He will serve with the honor and distinction of a member of our armed forces, which he was honorably discharged from as a Major in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Retired General Michael H. Flynn is Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, National Security Council.