Before long, all of Obamacare will be run like the VA hospital system
by: J. D. Heyes
The current scandal surrounding the Veteran's Administration hospital in Phoenix, in which "secret" appointment lists contained scores of veterans -- some of whom died while waiting months for an appointment or treatment -- is just a precursor to what is sure to happen throughout the country after all of Obamacare's mandates fully kick in, and here's why: The more bureaucracy there is between doctors and patients, the less care there is.
And that's historically been the problem with the VA hospital system: It's overly bureaucratic and, hence, very inefficiently run.
For decades now -- long before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- the VA has been a model of inefficiency and negligence. In fact, from its inception in 1921 (it was then known as the Veterans Bureau) the VA has been a model of corruption and incompetence. A report in 1949 by a commission looking into VA abuses "uncovered a staggering amount of waste," which was attributed to the highly political nature of the VA's healthcare system. In 1989, the VA was elevated to a Cabinet-level position, though no compelling arguments at the time existed to justify it. But nothing changed; as noted by the Independent Institute, "The Cabinet position offered no lasting changes to address the extensive waste and inferior care."
'Bureaucracy's first instinct is self-preservation'
This should surprise no one. The examples of government bureaucracy wasting taxpayer money and operating inefficiently -- because, as a government agency, there is no incentive to provide a superior product to the public like a business has to do in order to survive -- are legion.
As noted by The Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien, this historical inefficiency will manifest itself throughout the entire healthcare system, because Obamacare bureaucratizes all delivery systems.
"One conclusion we can draw is an old, familiar one: No matter what the issue or activity, bureaucracy's first and strongest instinct is to protect itself in the face of a perceived threat," he wrote.
"Another conclusion is probably just dawning on those Americans with the wit to see it, because so very few of us have had a brush with a medical system of which government is the sole proprietor: Putting a government bureaucracy in charge of one's health is a gamble likely to end badly," O'Brien wrote. "There is no better predictor of the course of a single-payer medical system in the United States than the VA system, because it is a single-payer system."
The VA system is Obamacare on a smaller scale
Since news broke that some 40 veterans sent to the back of the line at the VA Medical Center in Phoenix died while awaiting appointments, whistleblowers at six additional VA centers have come forward making similar allegations.
Obama professed to being beyond angry about it and eventually caved in to public demands to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Okay, but now what? What else is the administration and Congress prepared to do?
Because if it is anything less than dismantling a clearly non-functional bureaucracy and implementing, in its place, a free-market solution, then nothing about how the VA operates will change.
As a government entity, the VA has always been too short on resources: money, doctors and equipment, in this case. That's not going to change; despite recent increases in funding, there will never be enough resources to go around. So the VA will remain "a system with finite resources of money, time, talent and equipment will go back to deciding, on the basis of its own best interests, which corners to cut in which patients' care," O'Brien wrote. "The demand will always outstrip the bureaucracy's ability to offer treatment, so some will go without."
"Americans who watch this story play out and fail to make the clear and obvious connection to Obamacare will be guilty of willful ignorance," he continued. "The systemic flaw is identical. It's just magnified on a massive scale."
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