How to Fix The Travesty at the Veterans Administration

By now, I presume most of our customers are aware of the growing scandal at the Veterans Administration alleging that some of this country’s injured and/or ill warriors have been denied medical care and consequently have perished. My father was an active duty soldier in World War II. I remember conversations that took place in our home when I was a child concerning the VA and how poor the medical care was once you got it and how long you had to wait for it. The point is that the VA is bureaucracy that has been around for a long, long time and for most of the time has been broken. This didn’t happen only on General Shinseki’s watch and it can’t be easily fixed on the next guy’s watch either.

Today, Col. Jack H. Jacobs, US Army Retired, one of this nation’s Medal of Honor winners, proposed (Click Here to view story) that the way to fix the VA is to get rid of it. I agree and here is why you should as well.

The concept of “pooling resources” to gather strength is as old as the concept of organization itself. Examples of “Strength in Numbers” abound. In fact, there are few, if any, examples where something divided becomes stronger than the whole that preceded it. We see consolidation happen frequently in our business world with airline mergers creating a new leaner organization with lower operating costs and higher revenues yielding a more efficient and profitable operation. The opposite is true with “ease of management”. There can be little argument that managing small organizations is generally easier than managing large bloated organizations.

We hear daily that the Medical Care System in the United States is broken, that runaway costs are bringing medical delivery institutions to the brink of insolvency. We live in a community where this situation is visible to all of us. Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, on the brink of insolvency, had to sell itself to a larger organization because unpaid services that it willingly and responsibly delivered (via the emergency room) were breaking its “financial back”. Further, the hospital has excess bed capacity which, as long as it remains unfilled, prevents CGRMC from generating maximum revenue which it needs to maintain solvency.

Col. Jacob’s proposal has significant merits and is very simple: Shutdown the VA, treat the veterans as insured individuals, perhaps by granting them Medicare coverage, and have the veterans obtain their medical care from the free market health care system in this country, usually from their local doctor and medical center. Think about this for a minute:

  1. The VA is the second largest bureaucracy in the US Government. Dismantling it would reduce costs dramatically. Aging buildings can be sold or repurposed. Administrative overhead can be reduced.
  2. Our healthcare system is really underutilized and not profitable and sustainable. Adding more customers (veterans) whose care will be paid for by redirecting US Government VA operating budget to insurance payments can only help to make the free market system more healthy.
  3. There is no overcrowding in the free market health care system. It has the capacity to absorb the influx of Veterans and to give the Veterans the care they deserve and need immediately.
  4. We hear that there is a growing shortage of physicians. Make it possible for physicians employed by the VA to work in the free market health care system. The VA physicians and nurses would simply be organized into LLCs or PCs, just like most of the health care support systems what work at our hospitals now. That’s right. When you go to the hospital, you are given paperwork that tells you that many of the services you receive are provided by individuals who do not work directly for the hospital. For example:
    1. Emergency Room Physicians – work for a separate PC
    2. Doctors who read X-rays, MRIs and Ultrasounds
    3. Anesthesiologists
    4. Surgeons
  5. The Medicare Administrative System is a well working system. When you call for customer service, a person answers promptly and provides factual answers quickly and efficiently.  The VA’s administrative system is broken. Using the Medicare Administrative System will require expansion, adaptation and the addition of human and computer resources but it will not require development or invention…
  6. Injecting the money used for Veterans Health Care into the free market healthcare system will provide a desperately needed windfall of revenue.
  7. Adding Veterans to the bed count of free market health care hospitals will help hospitals generate required levels of revenue to become more profitable.

Now, if the Medicare system was chosen as the vehicle which would be used to administer health care for our Veterans, there probably would have to be some changes made to policy concerning eligible services offered to Veterans vs. eligible services offered to seniors. I am a senior and I make regular but not excessive use of the free market health care system. So far, I have never been told that I cannot have a procedure because Medicare will not pay for it. I recently had a bilateral knee replacement (yup, both knees at the same time .. doing fine, thanks ) and my out of pocket cost was limited to paying for an ice water circulation machine that circulates ice cold water through cuffs that one wraps around one’s knee or leg. Ice bags simply don’t work. So, I rented this machine. But, I am not so sure that the limb replacement and other rehabilitative services offered to and desperately needed by our Veterans are generally available to seniors. Regardless of the free market health care and administrative systems that are ultimately employed, we simply must continue to make these advanced state of the art services available to our veterans who so selflessly gave of themselves to protect our freedoms and rights of existence.

If you share my opinion about the VA, tell your congressman.  Make your thoughts known.

Click Here to go to a site that will help you email your congressman