How ironic that just as we begin year five of chaotic, stop-and-start Obamacare implementation, a scandal over malfeasance in the Veterans Administration health care system bursts into the headlines. The VA’s own Inspector General announced that as a result of whistle-blower reports, 26 facilities are now under investigation, accused of maintaining off-the-books waiting lists, designed to hide unconscionable wait times of up to a year or more, for doctor appointments, lab tests and other services and procedures. Upwards of 30 deaths are blamed on service delays
As the scandal mushroomed the usual political-media suspects stampeded to the cameras to blame “budget cuts” forced upon the VA by Republicans. They reached back a decade to blame President Bush for going to war without budgeting for enough VA healthcare to serve returning veterans.
Let’s knock down the “budget cut” excuse first.
As the chart above shows VA health care spending has soared way past the increase in patients since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars started. The chart to the right shows a per patient funding increase of 74% over the same period.
Only politicians and commentators who routinely blame “budget cuts” for every government failure, without ever checking the facts, believe – or want you to believe – the VA scandal is a money problem.
To sell his health care law, President Obama gave dozens of speeches fulminating against health insurance companies. Even though health insurance was already under intense regulation by federal and state governments, the President’s case rested on the implicit assumption that too little government involvement was the problem, and a lot more federal intrusion would solve the problem and, the President promised, “save the average family $2,500 a year.”
Obama never offered any evidence of government’s ability to deliver greater efficiency and value at lower cost than the private sector, maybe because the best example of government controlled health care was the Veterans Administration. The VA network of hospitals and clinics, is entirely owned and operated by the federal government. Everyone, from top executives to physicians and nurses to the guy who mows the lawn, is a federal employee. Thus, by the more-government-is-better theory that justified ObamaCare, VA health care should be nearly perfect.
But the modern Veterans health care system, set up during World War II, has never been in the same universe as perfection. Fir six decades the VA has been notorious for bureaucratic ineptitude and poor quality. While every politician claims full, unqualified support for veterans, a dozen Presidential Administrations have been unable to organize the post-World War II VA into a competent organization.
The questions that should have been asked back in 2009 when the President and the Democrats wrote the 2,500 page health care law:
- If politicians and bureaucrats claim they are able to better manage health care for everyone with even more controls, regulations, subsidies, fines, rewards and punishments, shouldn’t they have to prove themselves?
- Before passing Obamacare, a massive upheaval that empowers dozens of new bureaucracies to change American health insurance and medical services in hundreds of ways, shouldn’t Congress and the President have had to demonstrate their skills and abilities in a smaller, demonstration project?
The VA was already there. Virtually all voters appreciate and support veterans and want to do whatever it takes to meet their needs. The President, Congress and the bureaucrats would have had a free hand, unencumbered by resistance from so-called “special interests,” such as employers, employees, small business, big business, insurance companies, hospitals and physicians. We the people should have demanded that before dismantling and reassembling the nation’s entire health care infrastructure they prove their theories by transforming the VA into the world’s best health care system, second to none.
Unfortunately, nobody in the media or the opposition GOP thought to challenge the brash new President who, with no relevant experience to prepare him for the challenge, decided to upend the nation’s health care ecosystem. Nobody demanded that he clean government’s own house before expanding government’s power to control the private sector.
A modest proposal
The Administration has postponed major components of ObamaCare to defer the political consequences of health insurance disruptions and cost increases until after this year’s election. We propose a Republican campaign promise to use control of the Senate and House to force the President to keep those components on hold until he proves government’s ability by first turning the VA into a world class health care organization.
The President’s liberal/progressive supporters would strenuously object because in their hearts they know the he doesn’t begin to have the management skills or determination to meet that challenge. Progressives are thrilled by enacting their vision which is always new government powers and programs. They’re incapable of – and bored by the thought of – the tedious work of rehabilitating vast, dysfunctional government agencies and programs devised by previous progressive visionaries.