The Republican Senate candidate doesn’t seem to understand how veterans health care works despite training at a VA medical center.
Mehmet Oz, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, gave a confusing answer about veterans’ health care during an interview with a Pittsburgh radio station last week.
Station 90.5 WESA asked Oz about the PACT Act, which expands health care coverage to veterans exposed to toxins during their service. The interview took place hours before Senate Republicans finally agreed to support the legislation.
Oz called for the bill’s passage and said he believed veterans should be enrolled in the same insurance system that members of Congress receive from the Affordable Care Act’s private health insurance exchanges.
“I actually think they should get the same insurance that I get if I’m serving in the U.S. Senate,” Oz said. “They’ve done everything you can ask an American to do, and they’ve already paid their toll and they’re not getting what they deserve — in this case, access to health care.”
“These people risked their lives,” he added.
The Veterans Health Administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs provides health care coverage for veterans of the US military and offers free treatment for all service-connected injuries – an exclusive benefit for veterans health care.
In contrast, senators get health care coverage through the private health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
While VA hospitals have come under fire in the past for long wait times, studies have found that the public health care system is superior to or equal to privately run hospitals in terms of patient satisfaction and quality of care.
Oz’s apparent confusion about how the VA works is especially apparent because he trained to become a doctor at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
And his support for Senate health insurance is especially odd given the shift in stance he’s taken on Obamacare, which creates the exchanges senators use to get health care.
Although Oz endorsed Obamacare in a 2010 video in which he appeared for the health care advocacy group The California Endowment, his campaign recently dropped its support for President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for Oz’s campaign, told CNN that he “does not support a major government takeover of the health insurance industry” and “would not have voted for Obamacare.”
In a 2016 interview with Fox Business, Oz called Obamacare “a very bold effort to get more Americans into the health care system” but said “the problem with it though is that it required a compromise to pass it, which limited its ability. to address the quality of care and more importantly the cost of care.”
The Oz campaign did not return a request for comment.
Oz, who returned to Pennsylvania in 2020 after living in New Jersey for 30 years, has tried to mold his experience as a doctor and reality TV star into a compelling campaign message. He claims to be “scarred” from involvement in the pharmaceutical industry, and his campaign website lists health care as one of his key planks for voters.
But Oz, whose net worth is north of $100 million, is heavily invested in Big Pharma companies, according to financial disclosure documents. These companies include Johnson & Johnson, Thermo Fisher Scientific and PanTheryx, a biotechnology company on whose board he sits.
His campaign also received $5,800 in donations from Nostrum Pharmaceuticals founder and president Nirmal Mulye, who quadrupled the price of an essential antibiotic — a move he described as a “moral imperative.”
“I think it’s a moral imperative to make money when you can … sell the product at the highest price,” Mulye told the Financial Times in 2018.
Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz during the Republican primaries, also has a checkered history on veterans’ health care. In 2018, Trump signed the VA MISSION Act, which some critics say has led to worse health outcomes and more expensive care for veterans.
Oz is running against Pennsylvania Governor John Fetterman, a Democrat, for the state Senate seat left open by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). A recent Fox News poll has Fetterman leading Oz 47% to 36% among registered voters.
Published with permission of the American Independent Foundation.