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Don't Privatize the Veterans Hospitals

Comment

President Obama can do himself a big political favor this month by saying simply this: "I will not privatize the VA hospitals."

That's the bottom line for the current right-wing crusade mixing patriotic posturing with loathing of government in general and Obama specifically. We speak of allegations that a Phoenix hospital (and perhaps others) run by the Department of Veterans Affairs hid deadly delays for treatment by using secret waiting lists.

The theme is government can't do anything right. And if you're Rush Limbaugh, it's also running death panels for veterans.

"There's nobody that has any real-world, private-sector experience running anything to do with health care or medical treatment or medical care," El Rushbo declared from happy orbit.

Actual veterans could not disagree more.

"We're against privatizing the VA system," Joe Davis, national spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, told me in no uncertain terms. "To privatize the VA puts us on a waiting list with everyone else out in the United States."

You see, getting medical care can be rougher outside government-run programs than inside them, as contented veterans and Medicare beneficiaries repeatedly tell pollsters.

A 2004 RAND study determined that the VA system delivered higher-quality care than private hospitals on all measures except acute care. (They were even on acute care.) And the American Customer Satisfaction Index, run by the University of Michigan, found 85 percent of patients in VA hospitals satisfied with their care, versus 77 percent in private hospitals.

"The people who receive VA care by and large rave about it," the VFW's Davis said.

But that's no reason not to mess with it, right? In 2010, Ken Buck, Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, said privatization would make the hospitals "better run." Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney wanted to give veterans vouchers to shop for care in the private sector.

(Both later backed away from their proposals when veterans loudly objected.)

Now, the latest allegations — that the Phoenix VA Health Care System covered up long wait times by manipulating the waiting list — are serious. But they're still allegations. And so are reports that 40 or more veterans died as a result.

"The story has taken on its own truth," Davis said with exasperation in his voice.

Many in the media are taking the death toll number as gospel truth, but at least one probing reporter, Brian Skoloff of The Associated Press, probed into the sources of it. One was Dr. Samuel Foote, who, before retiring from the Phoenix hospital, was repeatedly reprimanded for taking Fridays off. Another employee raising the concerns had been fired last year and has a pending wrongful termination suit against the hospital.

"What we want is the (VA Office of Inspector General) report, and we know it won't come out until August," said Davis. "Do you want it good, or do you want it now?"

The hospital's administrators vehemently deny the allegations. Director Sharon Helman is now under police protection after receiving numerous death threats.

No surprise, given such hysterical and uncorroborated headlines as this one by CNN: "Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital's secret list."

Here's a sturdy spark to send the fringe right's manic hatred of government into high boil once again. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent and chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, summed up the situation nicely when he said:

"What I don't want to see is this issue politicized by these same folks who don't like Social Security, they don't like Medicare, they don't like Medicaid, they don't like the Postal Service."

Too late, Bernie. Too late.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

4 Comments | Post Comment
The worst thing we could do for the veterans would be to give them a choice when it comes to where they can get their medical care. All of our veterans should rest easy knowing that Sentator Sanders is going to get to the bottom of this debacle. Even more comfort should come to our veterans now that President Obama has been made aware of this situation. From the sound of things he is really upset and he cares so much that I personally am not sure this matter requires any further inquiry. What we all need to take away from this is that government is just the greatest and most efficeint entity and even if it were to make a mistake that has to be balanced out by the fact that those running the various government departments and agencies care so very much. The veterans who have died as a result of what has taken place at the VA are not victims rather they are beneficiaries of good intentions.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Greg M
Wed May 21, 2014 12:40 PM
Right, all the talk these days is about privatizing the VA. Privatizing, Privatizing, Privatizing. That's all we've heard about. If it will make you feel better we can PRETEND to be talking about Privatizing, Privatizing, Privatizing the VA if you will admit that perhaps 40 veterans may be dead. Then can we talk about the victims? Is this a good thing? I mean delays in appointments, fake waiting lists, bureaucratic layers of nonsense that we all know add NOTHING to patient care? This is not at all about the republicans, it is about the administrative branch of this country. The administration we were told would be headed by a brilliant man who knew how to get things done. He was a genius, the seas were going to calm, Aretha wore her special hat. This is a shame brought upon all of us. Six years into THIS administration. A government administered by democrats. An administrative branch government led by a man who pledged to take care of veterans. Just another lie. Billions to banks, green energy, Auto companies, exchanges, software for O care, you name it, all from the pen of the Administrative branch of government now in office for 6 years, and now this shameful act? Great last line, let's rephrase it shall we?

Too late, Soldier. Too late.

Maybe now YOU would like to stop talking about privatizing. Want to talk about the Veterans?
Comment: #2
Posted by: Tom
Thu May 22, 2014 10:19 AM
Re: Tom;...Being a genius is like running from a bear... You don't have to be faster than every one; but only faster than the one you are running with...Only God and a republican president will ever get the republicans in congress to agree with the executive...Getting the wrong things done is not the same as getting the right things done, and the republicans, if they were not the prisoners of their ideology would be free to help any president; and yet they can barely help themselves...Under such circumstances to hold ground may be the best thing a democrat president can do...
What you are seeing with the VA is triage... Administrators looking at their failing resources had to choose who they might save... It is obvious, and I think you will agree, that there is never enough profit in war to cover its cost; and those who bear that cost pay it in human suffering and deprivation...It used to be that the survivors had a piece of this country, something tangible to fight for, and something to show for the fight...The harder people fight and the harder they work the less they have to show for it... What point fighting the battle when victory is simply a prelude to a life long defeat for the valiant???
There is never enough profit in capitalism to cover the cost of all the damage it does to society, and war is inevitable with capitalism...People hang onto the old way because they are not ingenious enough to think their way into something better... Compared to this people, any blip above average is a genius...Do you see the world we live in where for any paltry excuse our youth and treasure can be thrown into harms way because a handful think in that fashion to land a fortune??? Long after the battle is won or lost the aches and wound of the warrior may again inflame... If all that should support the hero has been spent, or left for the rich to squander, why should the brave man not see he had been dishonored???... How many times have we called people to fight and told them they are the most essential element of an irresistable force, and then left them broken, burned, and looking stupid to have believed their country's lies???...
Just as in the South during the Civil War, the poor were expected to fight the war and pay the financial cost of it as well because the rich, then as now, refused to support the government that defended them and their rights... If we made this people smart they would not fight simply to see the rich richer... Let us hope that the VA helps to teach people the true cost of war that if known before hand would make peace possible... Any one who says war will be cheap, free, or make money is full of crap, and is usually a republican...
Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu May 22, 2014 2:47 PM
Re: Greg M... For most things government does; it does them because no one else can do them...People trying to squeeze profit out of the no profit jobs government does are a huge part of the problem...
It is like Amtrac... Drained of capital, and with the stock all watered it was taken over by the govenment; and as soon as it is recapitalized, the rich want it back to run into the ground again for next to nothin...
We have a lot of mature timber in this state on government land... Timber people bought it for nothing, clear cut everything and made a gdamned ecological and aesthetic mess of the place and then gave it back on taxes for the people to support; and now they want it all again for next to nothin to screw up again... Privatize wealth and communalize poverty is all the know...The only reason this people holds an inch of commonwealth is that the rich find too little value in it to demand it...
Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu May 22, 2014 2:56 PM
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