Unofficial Death Panels at the VA Show Where Obamacare Will Lead

Townhall – by Daniel J. Mitchell

In hopes of warning people about the dangers of Obamacare, I’ve shared horror stories from the United Kingdom about patients languishing on waiting lists andbeing left to die.

Now, thanks to whistleblowers, we have horror stories from America. The government-run system operated by the Veterans Administration has maintained secret waiting lists that have led to lots of delayed care and numerous deaths.  

The Wall Street Journal opines on the scandal.

 The real story of the VA scandal is the failure of what liberals have long hailed as the model of government health care. Don’t take our word for it. As recently as November 2011, Paul Krugman praised the VA as a triumph of “socialized medicine,” as he put it… What the egalitarians ignore, however, is that a government system contains its own “perverse incentives,” such as rationing that leads to treatment delays and preventable deaths, which the bureaucracy then tries to cover up. This isn’t an accident or one-time error. It is inherent in a system that allocates resources by political force rather than individual consumer choices. The VA is ObamaCare’s ultimate destination. …As in every government-run system, the only way the VA can provide universal, low-cost health care is by rationing. At the VA, this means long waiting lists to see doctors and get the “free” treatment veterans are entitled to.

Here is some of the evidence.

 A retired doctor at a veterans hospital in Phoenix last month charged that staff concealed months-long delays for as many as 1,600 veterans, allegedly resulting in 40 preventable deaths. Excessive wait-times have also been reported in Fort Collins, Durham, Cheyenne, Austin and Chicago, among others. A new Inspector General report is all but certain to reaffirm the conclusions from its 2005, 2007 and 2012 reports. To wit, VA centers fudge their data. The VA has consistently boasted in its performance reviews that more than 90% of patients receive appointments within 14 days of their “desired date.” Yet according to the IG’s 2012 report, the measures “had no real value”… Maintaining long backlogs can help VA centers procure more funding. Like other government institutions, VA centers have a financial incentive to keep services in-house.

The key issue is whether policy makers draw the right conclusions.

Unfortunately, the WSJ almost surely is right that the statists will assert that this is simply a sign that the VA needs more money (just as they argue that the government’s education monopoly needs more money, even though we have decades of evidence that more money doesn’t work).

 The inevitable liberal defense—it’s coming, we guarantee it—will be that Congress isn’t spending enough money. Yet as the nearby charts show, funding soared by 106% to $57.3 billion in 2013 from $27.7 billion in 2003. Yet over the same period the number of VA patients has increased by only 30%. …throwing more money at the VA hasn’t improved accountability, and neither have Congressional attempts at reform dating to the 1980s. …rearranging the deck chairs won’t fix the VA’s core problem, which is that a government-run system inevitably leads to wait lists and reduced access to quality care. The modern VA is a vestige of the flood of veterans coming out of World Wars I and II, but it is as unnecessary as a health-care system dedicated solely to police or firefighters. The best solution is to privatize the system.

The last couple of sentences are key. Why do we have a separate system of government-operated medical care for one segment of the population?

This isn’t to say that veterans shouldn’t receive care, particularly if they have medical conditions tied to their military service. National defense is a legitimate function of the federal government, and healthcare can be an appropriate form of deferred compensation.

But why isolate veterans in a substandard system? Just give them vouchers or some other form of subsidy, and then they can pick the care that is best for them.

But let’s look at the bright side. The scandal is already generating some very good political cartoons.

Here’s A.F. Branco making the obvious link between the VA mess and the looming Obamacare mess.

Glenn McCoy, meanwhile, warns us that some monsters are real.

Henry Payne also connects the dots between the VA and Obamacare.

And Robert Ariail does the same thing, using the train wreck theme.

Last but not least, Lisa Benson mocks the President, who never seems to realize bad things are happening in his Administration until he reads the newspapers.

P.S. Since the final cartoon also incorporated the IRS because of its scandalous actions to suppress political speech, this is an opportunity to share some good news. The tax-collection bureaucracy has backed down, at least temporarily, in its efforts to systematically regulate and constrain some of our First Amendment rights to participate in the political arena. Here are some blurbs from a story in the New York Times.

 The Internal Revenue Service said Thursday that it has delayed and is revamping new rules intended to curb political activity by tax-exempt groups and that were proposed after the agency was accused last year of targeting Tea Party groups. The I.R.S. said it made the decision after receiving 150,000 comments — both positive and negative — about the proposal, the biggest public response to any proposed rule in its history. …“Today’s decision is a long overdue step in the right direction,” Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, said in a statement. He said the proposed rules, as they now stood, “threatened free speech and the rights of all American citizens to participate in the democratic process.”

To be sure, delay is not the same as victory, and I have little doubt that the IRS – and its political masters in the White House – still would like to move forward with this scheme to distort the political process.

But at least the bureaucrats have been forced to temporarily retreat. Maybe we can do real tax reform at some point and have a permanent win over the IRS.

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