April 18, 2016


Special interest groups want to privatize the VA and nobody is paying attention (Paul Glastris, APRIL 18, 2016, Boston Globe)

The reason Washington is even considering such a radical restructuring of the VA has to do with widely publicized reports in 2014 that 40 veterans in Phoenix died waiting for first-time appointments with VA doctors. These reports led to bipartisan legislation mandating the creation of the commission. But as investigative journalist Alicia Mundy reveals in the Washington Monthly, the reports turn out to have been baseless allegations cooked up by a Koch brothers-funded group, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA), and key Republicans lawmakers who ideologically favor the outsourcing of VA health care.

Soon after the law was passed, the VA's inspector general's office published a report based on an exhaustive review of VA patient records. The report concluded that six, not 40, veterans had died experiencing "clinically significant delays" while on waiting lists to see a VA doctor. Of those six, the IG could not confirm that any vets died as a result of waiting for care. (Think of it this way: People die every year waiting in grocery lines, but that doesn't mean they died because of waiting in grocery lines.) There were certainly problems at some VA facilities. The waiting list numbers were definitely being gamed by VA personnel struggling to keep up with unmeetable performance metrics. The "death wait" allegations, however, were bogus.

But wouldn't vets receive swifter and better quality care from private hospitals and doctors than from a big bureaucracy like the VA? Actually, no. The law that set up the commission also mandated that $68 million be spent on independent research into the VA's functioning. The researchers concluded that despite many problems, including plunging morale and a wave of retirements, the VA performed "the same or significantly better" than private sector providers on a wide range of quality measures. They also found that average waits for VA doctors were shorter than wait times for doctors in the private sector.

It's the choice we face for all of health care, since single payer or complete privatization would both bring down costs.

Posted by at April 18, 2016 5:08 PM