While America may be one of the few developed countries without a national single payer healthcare system, we are home to one of the largest single payer healthcare system in the world – the Veteran’s Administration.
The administration was rocked by scandal in 2014 when it was exposed that veterans were suffering massive wait times (that continue to this day). At one Phoenix, AZ hospital in particular, 1.700 veterans had waited an average of 115 days for care. The VA requires hospitals to care for patients within 14-30 days, but internal emails that CNN obtained from that particular hospital proved that administrators were putting some veterans on off-the-record “secret” waiting lists to help lighten their already bleak wait time statistics.
An audit of the VA later in the year found such practices to be widespread, with 64% of VA facilities surveyed falsifying wait times. Thirteen percent of staff admitted that they were directed to falsify wait time data.
Many in the mainstream media that I’m no fan of did great work in exposing bureaucracy at the VA, but none seemed to make the obvious connection that the core of the problem is government being in charge of health care. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez apparently hasn’t gotten the memo either, as her most recent gaffe of the day indicates. Speaking at a town hall event in her district, Cortez applied the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage to a system that is objectively broken.
After claiming that the system provides “some of the highest quality” care to Veterans, She said:
That is the opening approach we have seen when it comes to privatization, it’s the idea that this thing that isn’t broken, this thing that provides some of the highest quality care to our veterans somehow needs to be fixed, optimized, tinkered with until we don’t even recognize it anymore.
They are trying to fix the VA for pharmaceutical companies, they are trying to fix the VA for insurance corporations, and, ultimately they are trying to fix the VA for a for-profit healthcare industry that does not put people or veterans first. And so we have a responsibility to protect it.
Who knew that we were all doing the pharmaceutical lobby’s bidding in wanting veterans to receive good health care? As fun as it is to poke fun at Cortez’s comments, the grim reality is that 22 veterans have committed suicide outside of VA facilities within the past year and a half, and it’s because they were not receiving “some of the best care.”
The VA has a suicide hotline, but that wouldn’t have been much help to those veterans either, as a report in 2017 found that 30% of inbound calls to the hotline went unanswered.
Cortez’s comments aside, who would know better about the VA’s healthcare quality than veterans themselves – two thirds of which do not rely on the VA for care. Even of those who do rely on the VA, the average veteran still receives 75% of their healthcare outside the VA system. When the vast majority of a population is willing to pay out of pocket for something they can otherwise receive for free, it should tell you something about the quality of the “free” service.
Messaging is everything – so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that Democrats pivot from supporting “Medicare for All” to “VA for all.”