Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke at some kind of town hall on Wednesday within her district. Given that, you can guess the political makeup of the crowd. In her speech, she lauded the Department of Veterans Affairs and asserted that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The details of this are within a The Nation article, so it’s very supportive obviously.
Speaking to nurses, veterans, and other constituents inside the auditorium of Public School 83 in the Bronx on Wednesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recalled an adage that she said applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Since the spring of 2014, after administrators at a Phoenix veterans’ hospital were found to have been tampering with wait-time data, conservative lawmakers and Koch-backed forces have argued that the agency needed “fixing.” They portrayed the VA as consumed by corruption, unable to deliver adequate care, and nearly broken beyond repair.
The Phoenix scandal did reveal serious capacity issues and administrative wrongdoing, but it was not indicative of endemic issues. Numerous nonpartisan studies have ranked VA health care as generally superior to the private sector’s, and the vast majority of veterans trust the VA to treat their ailments. In January, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that VA patients generally face shorter wait times for care than civilians in the private sector.
Let’s deal with some of those the claims at the provided links. Take the link from the Journal of the American Medical Association, as the other ones are just college surveys. It’s actually a link to a Reuters article. Just who did that “study?”
The researchers, all from the VA, compared wait times…
So the VA found the VA was doing a great job. Makes sense. The Nation, of course, doesn’t share that detail, instead labeling the link as if it came from a non-biased, independent source. The Reuters article itself contains no sub-links so we can’t see any of the actual data. You just have to trust them.
They claim this, which seems impossible to me.
That changed in 2017. Veterans’ average wait was 17.7 days as compared to 29.8 days in the private sector. Similar results were seen for three of the four subspecialties scrutinized by the researchers: primary care, 20 days at the VA versus 40.7 days private sector; dermatology, 15.6 versus 22.6; and cardiology, 15.3 versus 22.8.
On what planet does anyone in the private sector wait 40 days for an appointment with a primary care doctor? Did they include Canada? I live in the south currently and could call my doctor and be in this afternoon. Even when I lived in D.C., I never waited more than three days.
There’s an answer to my confusion though. As it turns out, the “wait times” that the VA used to compare themselves to are actually from a Merritt Hawkins survey of only 15 major metropolitan areas. In other words, they left out the majority of the country knowing that it would bring down the wait times numbers dramatically and make the VA look bad. If they included the tens of thousands of doctors in other large cities, medium-sized towns, and rural areas who routinely get patients in within a few days, that wouldn’t fit the narrative.
Also, those “major metropolitan areas” have large numbers of Medicaid patients seeing private doctors due to the expansions under Obamacare. So we are essentially comparing the failures of government to the failures of government.
Despite the major issues the VA has had, AOC would go on to advocate for “VA for all.”
While many champions of universal health-care coverage are fighting to essentially abolish private health insurance while retaining the private-hospital system, AOC said in an ideal world, the civilian health system would mirror what’s currently offered to veterans. “If you ask me, I would like VA for all,” she said to cheers.
This is a woman who’s almost certainly never stepped foot in a VA facility. Yet, she’s speaking authoritatively about having the entirety of the country within such a system. She’s not satisfied with the government just paying for it — she also wants the government to own the hospital systems like the VA. That’s not surprising given she’s essentially a communist, promoting ideas like universal basic income, universal healthcare, and “eliminating the profit margin,” which is code for government-owned means of production.
In her speech, she decried profit-driven healthcare as putting money above patients. There are many more who make similar claims within our political environment. What they ignore is that it’s the profit motive that motivates people to become doctors in the first place. It’s the profit motive that has allowed the United States to make up the majority of the world’s medical research and advancement.
To be fair, the VA has made some improvements over the last two years in regards to its facilities and wait times in the largest cities. We don’t know about veterans in more rural areas because they chose to not include them in the “study” we covered above. What we do know is that the VA is able to exist in the capacity it does because of the private sector providing the innovation it needs to treat patients. The same is true for many other countries with universal healthcare systems. It’s easy to be Norway when that cancer treatment they are using and the drugs they are prescribing came from America. We essentially subsidize the rest of the world’s medical care via our innovation and spending.
If the U.S. squashes all that innovation by elimination of the profit motive, there’s no country out there to fill the gap at the level we do. These are the kinds of unintended consequences that proponents of universal healthcare systems never address. Many doctors already won’t accept Medicare/Medicaid because the reimbursement rates are so low. What does AOC think will happen when all doctors are forced to only accept those rates? The answer is most will choose to not be doctors anymore. No one is going to school for 10 years to make $150,000 a year. Then what? You end up with rationing and the dumpster fire that is Britain’s NHS.
AOC’s calls for a “VA for all” are profoundly ignorant of the facts on the ground. That’s pretty much assumed at this point, but it’s not just her saying this. We’ll get to test all this in 2020, as essentially every candidate has endorsed “Medicare for all.” I hope the American people can look past the promises of rainbows and unicorns and realize how awful of an idea that is.