Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Veterans Administration Scandal

One of the fears expressed by opponents of Obamacare was that it would lead to rationing of care, long wait times, and even "death panels," i.e. bureaucrats deciding who should be treated and who left to die. The concern was that whenever the government undertakes to do something it's almost always done inefficiently and health care would be no exception.

Now with revelations emerging about the Veterans Administration hospitals creating secret wait lists for patients, essentially rationing care, and patients dying while waiting for doctor visits the public is seeing exactly why those who doubted government's ability to manage health care were skeptical.

John Fund has a good piece on this at NRO. He writes:
If our government has any obligation to fulfill its many promises on health care, it should be first and foremost to the men and women who served in our armed forces. But the scandal over hidden waiting lists at a growing number of veterans’ hospitals (seven so far) — wherein dozens of veterans died while waiting months for vital treatment, and the VA covered up the lengthy wait times — should make everyone wonder whether we can place our trust in a government-managed health-care system.

The Dayton Daily News reported on Sunday that its investigation of a database of claims paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that the words “delay in treatment” were used 167 times. The VA paid out a total of $36.4 million to settle the claims. There could well be many more cases of “death by delay” at the VA that never came to light.

Are there lessons in the VA scandal for the rest of us if Obamacare survives and even expands?

You betcha. The first lesson is that as government expands taxpayer subsidies for health care, the demand will always outstrip supply....

Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute notes that more than 344,000 claims for veterans’ care are backed up and waiting to be processed. It takes an average of 160 days for a veteran to be approved for health benefits, and the VA itself estimates that is has an error rate of at least 9 percent in processing claims. According to VA figures for 2012, as reported by the Washington Post, “a veteran who takes an appeal through all available administrative steps faces an average wait of 1,598 days.” That’s more than four years of waiting.

Obamacare will dramatically expand access to the health-care system at the same time that many surveys show doctors are likely to retire or cut back their hours. It is almost inevitable that we’ll see more waiting-list scandals as the need to ration care grows.

This is the record of many single-payer health-care systems, and both Obama and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, have said that establishing a single-payer system is their long-term goal. In 2003, Obama, then an Illinois state senator, told an AFL-CIO conference: “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health-care program. . . . But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately.”
Fund goes on to discuss how single payer systems in other countries have resulted in appalling delays and rationing of care.

The VA debacle is only the most recent of a long string of scandals that have plagued this administration. From the enormous wastefulness of the stimulus - much of which was awarded to corporate cronies and big donors and none of which created any jobs - to the homicides resulting from Fast and Furious, the failure to protect our murdered embassy personnel in Benghazi, the NSA spying on American citizens, the use of the IRS to punish political opponents, the abuses at the Veterans Administration, and numerous lesser screw-ups (like the enormously expensive and incredibly bungled health care rollout) one is left questioning the integrity, competence, and intelligence of the people leading us in Washington. Either they are reprehensibly corrupt, unprecedentedly incompetent, unimaginably stupid, or they are none of those things but are instead malevolently vile because they're diminishing this country in ways great and small almost daily. Perhaps, from the President on down, they are some combination of all of these.

It should cause us all some trepidation that the experience of our veterans will probably be the experience of everyone once Obamacare is fully implemented. We will have VA quality health care largely overseen by a politically vindictive and corrupted IRS.

Tea-partiers better hope they don't ever need life-saving treatment because they're sure to find themselves on the extended wait list if liberals hold the executive branch of government.