By Mike Lillis - 08/19/10 03:20 PM EDT
Rep. Chet Edwards (D-Texas) this week is blasting his Republican challenger over the future of healthcare for the nation's veterans.
Edwards, in a tough fight for an eleventh term, said Wednesday that Bill Flores's proposal to shift veterans into private insurance plans "would destroy the VA health care system as we know it and undermine health care for America’s veterans."
The charge came in response to comments from Flores earlier in the year that "veterans would be much better off if they could go into the private health care system and have the government pay for it."
"Typically the care in the private citizens' sector is better than the government sector," Flores said during a January debate. "The government usually doesn’t do some things very well that involve bureaucracies so they need to go into the private system."
Neither Edwards nor Flores served in the military.
Edwards said his challenger's plan would "dilute the patient base at our VA hospitals, undermining quality care for our veterans, raising costs to taxpayers and ultimately leading to the closure of the VA hospitals in Waco, Temple and across the country."
Flores, a former oil executive, told the Dallas Morning News that Edwards's allegations were "baseless."
"Only a career politician like Chet Edwards would think that giving veterans options is a bad thing," Flores told the News.
It's likely not the end of the debate. Next week, Edwards is scheduled to kick off a five-day campaign focusing directly on veterans' issues. The "Vets for Chet" tour launches Aug. 23.
The Cook Political Report rates the Edwards/Flores contest a toss-up.