Texas Rainmaker

It appears Veterans’ hospitals have become the new frontline in the war against the war. I agree that our military veterans ought to have the best medical treatment available, and I believe those who fight for our way of life are entitled to enjoy the best it has to offer.

But it’s becoming evident that the Left is using this story to attack President Bush, by tying the problems at the VA hospitals to the Iraq war.

Tierney, D-Mass., chairman of the panel, questioned whether problems at the facility are “just another horrific consequence” of inadequate planning that went into war in Iraq; a problem created by contracting out work there to private business, or some other cause.

Not only does Tierney try to link the claims of poor planning for the war in Iraq with the poor conditions in the hospitals, but he also takes a stab at the troop surge strategy as well, saying:

Tierney said he is afraid “these problems go well beyond the walls of Walter Reed,” adding that “as we send more and more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, these problems are only going to get worse, not better

But a funny thing happened on the way to the anti-war rally…

Just last year, Time Magazine had an article entitled, “How Veterans’ Hospitals Became the Best in Health Care“.

The VA runs the largest integrated health-care system in the country, with more than 1,400 hospitals, clinics and nursing homes employing 14,800 doctors and 61,000 nurses. And by a number of measures, this government-managed health-care program–socialized medicine on a small scale–is beating the marketplace. For the sixth year in a row, VA hospitals last year scored higher than private facilities on the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, based on patient surveys on the quality of care received. The VA scored 83 out of 100; private institutions, 71. Males 65 years and older receiving VA care had about a 40% lower risk of death than those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, whose care is provided through private health plans or HMOs, according to a study published in the April edition of Medical Care. Harvard University just gave the VA its Innovations in American Government Award for the agency’s work in computerizing patient records.

The only difference… Back then, the strategy was to persuade Americans that government-run, socialized healthcare should be applauded as a model of efficiency and cutting edge technology. And the reason it was so good? Bill Clinton, of course.

The roots of the VA’s reformation go back to 1994, when Bill Clinton appointed Kenneth Kizer, a hard-charging doctor and former Navy diver, as the VA’s under secretary for health. Kizer decentralized the VA’s cumbersome health bureaucracy and held regional managers more accountable. Patient records were transferred to a system-wide computer network, which has made its way into only 3% of private hospitals. When a veteran is treated, the doctor has the vet’s complete medical history on a laptop. In the private sector, 20% of all lab tests are needlessly repeated because the doctor doesn’t have handy the results of the same test performed earlier, according to a 2004 report by the President’s information technology advisory committee.

But what about the inefficiencies inherent in government-run systems? What about the fact that “as we send more and more troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, these problems are only going to get worse, not better”? Well, the article addressed those questions, too… then promptly dismissed them as insignificant nuisances to the successful socialized medicine system.

Vets still gripe about wading through red tape for treatment. Some 11,000 have been waiting 30 days or more for their first appointment. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars could stress the system, although for the moment VA officials say the agency can accommodate the new patients. That’s because older vets, especially those from the World War II and Korean War eras, are dying of natural causes at the rate of about 600,000 a year, whereas the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have so far created a little more than 550,000 new vets.

In addition, the article includes an argument about body armor. However, this time it’s not that soldiers don’t have enough, but rather the fact that because they have it, it increases the stress on the superior, socialized system.

On the other hand, because advances in body armor and field medicine have enabled soldiers to survive battlefield injuries that in earlier conflicts meant death, many of the new patients are arriving at VA hospitals with severe wounds. In response, the VA has set up four polytrauma centers around the country.

It’s interesting to note that when the Left was promoting socialized medicine as a good thing, long lines and complicated bureaucracy was “not that bad”…

Dawn Halfaker, a former Army captain who lost her right arm in Iraq, says negotiating the bureaucracy to get treatment for all her medical needs has been frustrating at times. She had to wait eight months for an appointment at the Washington hospital to get her teeth cleaned. Even so, she says, the care “is not as bad as I thought it would be.”

Today, it’s neglect.

Vera Heron spent 15 frustrating months living on post to help care for her son. “It just absolutely took forever to get anything done,” Heron said. “They do the paperwork, they lose the paperwork. Then they have to redo the paperwork. You are talking about guys and girls whose lives are disrupted for the rest of their lives, and they don’t put any priority on it.”

I guess it’s nice to finally see the Left acknowledging that government-run healthcare is the dirty cesspool we’ve known it was all along… even if it takes an anti-Bush strategy to make it happen.

Posted by TexasRainmaker |

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