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.