As the fallout from the Veterans Administration cooking of the books and the related deaths of over three dozen veterans continues, President Obama took to the podium on Wednesday to explain that problems at the VA are nothing new. On Wednesday, President Obama took to the podium to first express his tremendous anger – VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was “mad as hell” but President Obama was “madder than hell,” thus winning the rage sweepstakes – and then explained that the VA’s issues go back years:
[A]ll of us, whether here in Washington or all across the country, have to stay focused on the larger mission, which is upholding our sacred trust to all of our veterans, bringing the VA system into the 21st century, which is not an easy task…. caring for our veterans is not an issue that popped up in recent weeks. Some of the problems with respect to how veterans are able to access the benefits that they've earned, that's not a new issue.
Obama’s statement, however, was remarkably short on actual solutions for the VA. Throwing money at the problem hasn’t fixed it: using 2011 dollars, America spent $88.8 billion on the VA in 2007, and $125.3 billion on the VA in 2012.
And herein lies the problem for the left: the failures at the VA, including its bureaucratic incompetence, its waiting lists, and its deaths, all debunk the notion that a government-run healthcare system will work. It’s a fresh slap in the face to all those commentators who, in pushing Obamacare, endorsed the VA as a model.
There are some pretty big names on that list. Paul Krugman in 2011 wrote of the VA’s “huge success story”:
Multiple surveys have found the VHA providing better care than most Americans receive, even as the agency has held cost increases well below those facing Medicare and private insurers…the VHA is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.
Krugman added, “Yes, this is ‘socialized medicine’…But it works, and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of US health care more broadly.”
Similarly, Nicholas Kristof of the Times wrote in 2009:
Take the hospital system run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest integrated health system in the United States. It is fully government run, much more “socialized medicine” than is Canadian health care with its private doctors and hospitals. And the system for veterans is by all accounts one of the best-performing and most cost-effectiveelements in the American medical establishment.
Just last year, Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton wrote in the pages of the Times:
Remarkably, Americans of all political stripes have long reserved for our veterans the purest form of socialized medicine, the vast health system operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (generally known as the V.A. health system). If socialized medicine is as bad as so many on this side of the Atlantic claim, why have both political parties ruling this land deemed socialized medicine the best health system for military veterans? Or do they just not care about them?
Or try the RAND Corporation: “If other health care providers followed the V.A.’s lead, it would be a major step toward improving the quality of care across the U.S. health care system.”
Then there’s Voxsplainer Ezra Klein, who wrote in the Washington Post in 2009 that “expanding the Veterans Health Administration to non-veterans” was “one of my favorite ideas.”
Jonathan Golob of The Seattle Stranger has written in the same vein: “Every time I read about a Teabagger ranting about how socialized medicine will destroy this country I think of the VA system. There it is, a huge and vastly important universal healthcare system—government run, single payer and therefore socialist—right here in the brave and privatized United States: The Veterans Affairs hospitals.”
The left has routinely used the VA as a club to wield in favor of socialized medicine. No wonder they’re running scared from the current VA scandal – which, as President Obama rightly notes, has been underway for decades.