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Our Veterans Deserve Better

January 31, 2014
1:45 pm

Last year, the book “Best Care Anywhere:  Why VA Health Care Would Work Better for Everyone” entered its third printing.  The book tells of a Veterans Administration healthcare system that, according to the author, is far superior to the private sector in both quality care delivery and cost containment.  The message delivered in this book, in fact, became something of a core liberal talking point during health reform debates – that the wonders of single-payer, government-run healthcare can be seen on full display at the VA.

This week, CNN is painting a different picture of the VA system, reporting that at least 19 veterans have died as a result of delays in receiving routine diagnostic exams such as colonoscopies and endoscopies.  This follows an earlier CNN report that as many as 7,000 veterans in just two states alone – South Carolina and Georgia — are on a backlog list to receive these fundamental diagnostic screenings.

And, as the cable network points out, not a single person has been dismissed or demoted as a result of this substandard care, and the VA is consistently ignoring congressional committee requests for explanations and accountability.  One has to agree with Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) who said, “We have a duty to make sure the veterans who serve get the best health care possible.  And it is very obvious that, for too long and for too many folks, that hasn’t happened.”

This is not to say that the VA doesn’t carry out some aspects of healthcare very well.  The institution has, for example, been among the early adopters in demonstrating the effective use and value of electronic medical records.

But in terms of the argument that all of American healthcare should emulate this type of bureaucratically-run system, it’s been made clear this week that several thousand service men and women have reason to disagree with that thesis.  For too many who have dedicated their lives to serving their country, the concept of getting the right care at the right time isn’t happening.  That’s simply unacceptable.

Healthcare Leaders Meet the Press

January 07, 2014
12:28 pm

Let’s give credit to “Meet the Press” for choosing to address healthcare in its January 5 installment by turning to actual health industry leaders instead of the usual Washington, D.C. talking heads.

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove and Mayo Clinic CEO John Noseworthy, both physicians as well as hospital executives, joined host David Gregory to discuss the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and, just as importantly, other healthcare issues that deserve more attention than they generally receive in the media.

Both Dr. Cosgrove and Dr. Noseworthy, for example, emphasized the importance of improving a Medicare program that is headed toward insolvency, saying that this a key to addressing healthcare costs.  To quote Dr. Noseworthy, “The long-term sustainability of Medicare is something no one has taken on yet.  The nation has to have the courage to step up to the looming insolvency of Medicare.”

And Dr. Cosgrove also emphasized the critical role of wellness and disease prevention in achieving health system sustainability.  Mentioning the cost ramifications of the growing obesity epidemic in the United States, he said, “We need to have incentives for individuals to take care of themselves, and that’s not a big enough part of the new law as it should be.”

Dr. Noseworthy and Dr. Cosgrove are both members of the Healthcare Leadership Council.

You can see the video of their Meet the Press appearance here.  Articles about their comments can be found here and here.