Can we make every hospital a VA hospital?

posted at 1:01 pm on June 14, 2014 by Jazz Shaw

On Friday I went on Twitter and tossed out what seemed like a fanciful if not terribly practical idea.

Well, we may not be able to do that, but the GOP has already cooked up a plan which is nearly as good. The Prince of Twitter, Andrew Malcolm, brings us this weekend’s GOP message from Tom Coburn.

In some locations, like Boston and Pittsburgh, VA care is top notch. At others, such as at Phoenix, it is very sub-par.

High death rates and complication rates are occurring at more and more VA centers. And this information is not being shared with our veterans.

I never served in the military, but like all Americans, I have the wonderful benefit of living in a great country because of those who put on our uniform.

It is unacceptable that the men and women who bravely fought for our freedom are losing their lives, not at the hands of terrorists or enemy combatants, but from neglect by the very government agency established to take care of them…

There’s a simple cure to achieve these goals: Make every hospital a VA hospital.

VA hospitals serve an important and unique role, but veterans should be allowed to choose where, when and from whom they receive treatment.

If a VA center is inconveniently located, veterans should be free to choose another doctor.

This week the Senate approved a bipartisan bill to empower veterans with the freedom they deserve.

Under this plan, veterans living over 40 miles away from VA clinic would be able to receive their care somewhere closer if they so choose to do so. Those who cannot receive a timely VA appointment would automatically have the option to see another doctor outside of the VA.

Coburn goes on to list a number of other facets of the bill which would hold VA employees accountable for their actions (or lack thereof) and provide more oversight. Those are all important ideas, of course, but the number one priority still has to be getting veterans in to see a doctor now… not next year. And while my plan – to force members of Congress to only get appointments and help at VA hospitals through the same application and waiting channel as veterans – might spur them to quicker action, it doesn’t provide a solution. Maybe this will. But how do you handle the payment end of it?

I’m not sure how practical it would be, but could the veterans be issued some form of Medicare / Medicaid ID card which would allow them to go to any doctor or hospital and have their bill processed in such a way that the VA reimburses the other agencies for the incurred charge? I suppose I’m rather naive about the entire system, but it doesn’t really sound like it should be all that difficult to do that. If they are too far from a good VA center or if the wait time is too long, let them go to whoever they can find locally and get the ball rolling. We manage to foot the bill for tens of millions of people seeking medical care every day in this country. Is it so crazy to think that a few strokes of the pen could roll our wounded warriors into the same tent?


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Privatize, hey, what a novel idea!

Something like this might work, but the govt better pay the providers…and quickly. Otherwise, care providers will not accept patients covered by VA.

freedomfirst on June 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

And while my plan – to force members of Congress to only get appointments and help at VA hospitals through the same application and waiting channel as veterans – might spur them to quicker action

Congress would get on yet another special list and hog all the services leaving our veterans with even crappier care. No thanks.

joekenha on June 14, 2014 at 1:11 PM

This week the Senate approved a bipartisan bill to empower veterans with the freedom they deserve.

Under this plan, veterans living over 40 miles away from VA clinic would be able to receive their care somewhere closer if they so choose to do so. Those who cannot receive a timely VA appointment would automatically have the option to see another doctor outside of the VA.

So… they will still have bureaucrats deciding what is a “timely appointment”. That should fix everything./

jffree1 on June 14, 2014 at 1:11 PM

Public sector unions who represent the VA executioners in emergency session. They see accountability in their futures if they let veterans escape from their despicable clutches.

Happy Nomad on June 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Public sector unions who represent the VA executioners in emergency session. They see accountability in their futures if they let veterans escape from their despicable clutches.

Happy Nomad on June 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Accountability is Kryptonite to any union or government agency.

So that’s not going to happen.

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

I’ll go even farther. There should be a surcharge placed on every medical/health transaction that will be used to bring healthcare to the veterans, much like the surcharge on our telephone, cable, and internet bills that are making high speed communications available to folks who live in the hinterlands.

This means that when Sgt. Leave Me Alone (USA, ret.) who lives 500 miles from anything in Wyoming needs healthcare, the VA will send a mobile VA hospital to him.

BobMbx on June 14, 2014 at 1:20 PM

The real threat is our privatized healthcare system becoming like the VA system. The VA is a perfect example of the failure of single payer systems and its happening right here in America . No need to point to failed single payer systems in other countries like Britain.

Ellis on June 14, 2014 at 1:21 PM

The idea that we have to have a separate medical system for veterans is an concept that expired not too long after WW2.

Hometown doctors and hospitals may not have been equipped to provide the care necessary to wounded vets in an era when antibiotics were new and cutting edge, but that medical expertise is as widely available as mail delivery today.

It will never happen, because any bureaucracy as large as the VA will fight for its life far harder than it fights for its mission, but dismantling and dismembering the VA would save us billions. Providing vets with the same level and type of insurance coverage that Congress enjoys would be just, prudent and frugal.

Handing critical missions to government entities is a serious mistake (given the inefficiency, waste and fraud endemic to them) and should be undertaken only when there is no alternative. The VA is not such a case.

Dolce Far Niente on June 14, 2014 at 1:24 PM

If some illegal from Chiapas can go to any doctor or hospital and Medicaid pays the bill, then why should the VA not do the same for some fellow who fought in the IA Drang, or Fallujah, or Coral Sea??

xkaydet65 on June 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

obamacare IS making every hospital a VA hospital

jlw on June 14, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Shitseki introduced the bonus plan for the VA. I hope he chokes from all the deaths he’s cased.

No gov’t employee produces a profit. Thus, never should any one get a bonus.

On the hospitals, so much to say….but the VA scandal hasn’t even reached the tip of the iceberg.

Schadenfreude on June 14, 2014 at 1:32 PM

I had a skin thing that looked like a melanoma, called around to find a dermatologist. No good, you have to be referred by your primary physician. And once you have the referral, appointment openings were 3-4 months in the future.

I hung up and went to a neighborhood clinic, got seen the same day, had the biopsy results (benign) 5 days later.

There are problems here that go beyond the VA mess. No wonder people just go to the emergency room and don’t even try the appointment route.

Byron on June 14, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Accountability is Kryptonite to any union or government agency.

So that’s not going to happen.

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

In my life, I’ve worked in government – you’ll forgive the use of the word – progressively from the city, to the county, to the state level. I was offered employment with the federal government but turned it down. When people asked why I had declined a federal job, I simply pointed that every time I moved up the bureaucratic ladder I found the incompetence, corruption, and lack of accountability increased exponentially. I just wasn’t ready to ‘bob for apples’ in the federal cesspool no matter how large a salary was offered. I’d rather be able to live with myself.

BigWyo, your assessment is absolutely accurate and explains why we’ll never see ANY reforms.

oldleprechaun on June 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

…Something like this might work, but the govt better pay the providers…and quickly. Otherwise, care providers will not accept patients covered by VA.

freedomfirst on June 14, 2014 at 1:09 PM

You’re right. The fee department at the small town VA took 6 months to reimburse a local hospital, physicians, and ambulance provider for an emergency I had. I can just imagine how bad it would be getting the fee department at a big city VA to pay.

rlwo2008 on June 14, 2014 at 1:39 PM

BigWyo, your assessment is absolutely accurate and explains why we’ll never see ANY reforms.

oldleprechaun on June 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

It’s just not built into the ‘system’…you get an endless supply of funds and doing a $hitty job has no consequences…

Your ‘Company’ isn’t going to fold because your workers suck at their jobs…

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Congress would make sure the hospitals are of course gold-plated and then they would tax the living hell out of the rest of us to pay for it.

Meanwhile the taxpayers themselves get People’s Hospitals staffed by flunkies you wouldn’t trust to apply a bandaid without accidentally amputating your leg.

Bishop on June 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

I just wasn’t ready to ‘bob for apples’ in the federal cesspool no matter how large a salary was offered. I’d rather be able to live with myself.

oldleprechaun on June 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

Can you just imagine the giant scab of worthless Federal a$$holes living in northern Virgina and Maryland??

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:47 PM

sorry but this is all old news. in 1979 the local DAV tried to do this but the local hospital said no and made the vets drive 200 miles to get care. We had a local regional VA hosipital within 30 miles BUT the DEMs sold to a resourt chain instead and gave us a small metal building. Today I get referals from the VA for local Doctors and the VA does make appointments with local doctors and pays for the care. So what is new about any of this? I’m sorry the mid terms in 2014 and general election in 2016. Don’t belittle my intelegence.

jpcpt03 on June 14, 2014 at 1:49 PM

Can we make every hospital a VA hospital?

YES WE CAN! It’s called “Obamacare”… so we’re all VA (government) hospital patients now.

Glenn Jericho on June 14, 2014 at 1:50 PM

But how do you handle the payment end of it?

Well, we could start by deporting illegal aliens rather than housing and treating them at military bases (oh, the irony). And then we could confiscate the salaries, bonuses and pensions of those perpetrating this (after sending them to jail). Then we could confiscate the salaries, bonuses and pensions of Congress, the President and their staffers. Then work your way down the bureaucracy (confiscating salaries, bonuses and pensions) until you’ve raised enough money.

A bonus side effect would be those bureaucrats not making any money would quit, and reduce the number of government busybodies turning this country into a corruptocracy.

Fenris on June 14, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Your ‘Company’ isn’t going to fold because your workers suck at their jobs…

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Yes it is. It’s just going to take a little longer.

Oldnuke on June 14, 2014 at 2:12 PM

But how do you handle the payment end of it?

Just send the bill to the nearest obamacare exchange! They will have that payment thingy working soon.

Franklyn on June 14, 2014 at 2:16 PM

If some illegal from Chiapas can go to any doctor or hospital and Medicaid pays the bill, then why should the VA not do the same for some fellow who fought in the IA Drang, or Fallujah, or Coral Sea??

xkaydet65 on June 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Libfreeordie, your thoughts on the above quote?

RI_Red on June 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

High death rates and complication rates are occurring at more and more VA centers.

…because a lot of the employees are Lefty unionists.

formwiz on June 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Why? Because both systems are independently corrupt and those in charge of the respective corruption and fraud won’t want others in their business… maybe?

MT on June 14, 2014 at 2:25 PM

Coburn…….MSNBC’s 2nd favorite gop Media Whore.

He went to Florida in 2008 to save McCain’s behind in the Florida Primary. He’s worthless.

PappyD61 on June 14, 2014 at 2:28 PM

And forcing Congresscritters, their families and staffers onto AuschwitzCare would be a lovely idea.

pdigaudio on June 14, 2014 at 2:29 PM

Libfreeordie, your thoughts on the above quote?

RI_Red on June 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM

He has thoughts?

Fenris on June 14, 2014 at 2:45 PM

Yes we can!

Whitey Ford on June 14, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Better idea: dump the VA and make every hospital available for Vets care.

But why would an idea like that even occur to these know-nothing dip-heads?

ss396 on June 14, 2014 at 3:01 PM

Accountability is Kryptonite to any union or government agency.

So that’s not going to happen.

BigWyo on June 14, 2014 at 1:15 PM

Accountability is crippling. Choice is the killer. The society where people have more choices available to them is the society that has the weaker government.

deepelemblues on June 14, 2014 at 3:33 PM

Under this plan, veterans living over 40 miles away from VA clinic would be able to receive their care somewhere closer if they so choose to do so. Those who cannot receive a timely VA appointment would automatically have the option to see another doctor outside of the VA

…and the VA will increase the bonus bucks… if you can get a veteran to use the hospital…even if he goes a mile down the street!…(the governments mind…at work…more funding…no work!)

KOOLAID2 on June 14, 2014 at 3:39 PM

I would guess Obama will veto this, and that’s why the Dems voted for it in a CYA action.

PattyJ on June 14, 2014 at 4:04 PM

My dad worked for the VA in New York back in the 1970s. The Bronx VA hospital was the top facility in the area, where they had research being done on injuries and illnesses connected with the returning Vietnam veterans. The Manhattan VA facility (which you’d think would be the main one in the NYC area), ranked lower on the scale, though it was still probably better than the city-run Bellevue Hospital next door. It sounds like the situation is still the same 40 years down the line — if you’re a veteran, it pays to be closer to the better hospitals in the system.

jon1979 on June 14, 2014 at 4:16 PM

A VA program already exists that allow the dependents of 100% disabled veterans to see any private doctor they choose who will accept the insurance. The program is called CHAMPVA and is a sister program to Medicare, so doctors who accept Medicare patients generally accept CHAMPVA patients.

The dependents of 100% disabled veterans are not allowed to procure treatment at most VA facilities, dental is not covered unless it’s part of treatment for another condition, such as a traffic accident, vision treatment is likewise extremely limited, and there are a number of other limitations, but the dependent gets private medical care with a 25% copay/costshare and they are issued a CHAMPVA insurance card and the health care provider is reimbursed similarly to Medicare.

The federal government could, and should, issue a similar card to veterans allowing them to procure treatment in the private sector regardless of where they live. The issues with VA hospitals and clinics have existed and been ongoing since the inception of the system and veterans have received subpar treatment, been neglected, and in some cases, abused, in that system.

Privatize veterans care. If anyone deserves the freedom to choose their own health care providers and physicians it’s those who’ve served the nation in uniform.

thatsafactjack on June 14, 2014 at 4:26 PM

Coburn…….MSNBC’s 2nd favorite gop Media Whore.

He went to Florida in 2008 to save McCain’s behind in the Florida Primary. He’s worthless.

PappyD61 on June 14, 2014 at 2:28 PM

You are losing one of the best senators we have in congress. You can’t know how despicable you are with your mindless slurs. He at least tries. Are you so stupid that you don’t know that he defies the senate ethics committee and comes back to Oklahoma to deliver babies. Of course your lawyer buddies are naturally better and more honest. Remember, Senator Coburn in only one of 100, he can’t do everything. You think he is worse than feinstein, mccain, schumer, any other you can name! He is a man of his word. Keeping his word sometimes hurts his Oklahoma constituents, but his constituents understand his wisdom and honor. Scr-w you PappyD61!

Old Country Boy on June 14, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Public sector unions who represent the VA executioners in emergency session. They see accountability in their futures if they let veterans escape from their despicable clutches.

Happy Nomad on June 14, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Sad state of affairs. Veterans Affairs.

Key West Reader on June 14, 2014 at 4:51 PM

This is a new idea? Everyone’s talking about this. The only thing I don’t hear that I would add is keep the existing VA hospitals and facilities as specialized, state-of-the-art centers specializing in physical and mental battlefield injuries. All other “regular” injuries and illness, not military related, including aging issues, should be able to be treated anywhere.

ncinca on June 14, 2014 at 5:02 PM

We should give the vets free ObamaCare and close the VA.

Blacksheep on June 14, 2014 at 5:03 PM

We should give the vets free ObamaCare and close the VA.

Blacksheep on June 14, 2014 at 5:03 PM

VA care = Obamacare.

No, Thanks.

Key West Reader on June 14, 2014 at 5:31 PM

This is a new idea? Everyone’s talking about this. The only thing I don’t hear that I would add is keep the existing VA hospitals and facilities as specialized, state-of-the-art centers specializing in physical and mental battlefield injuries. All other “regular” injuries and illness, not military related, including aging issues, should be able to be treated anywhere.

ncinca on June 14, 2014 at 5:02 PM

The private sector already has state of the art centers for physical, traumatic brain injuries etc.

I think the existing facilities should be turned into Medicaid facilities. If you are on government healthcare, you should go to a government hospital. And that includes Congress.

monalisa on June 14, 2014 at 5:53 PM

The payment end is the easiest to accomplish. We have entire government agencies tasked to write checks, and they are good at their jobs. NOT paying undeserving people is the problem. Just send the Vets to a regular hospital with a government voucher that promises equal care to Medicare, and those guys and gals will be taken care of.

koolbob on June 14, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Has it ever been studied if the private medical sector could even handle the veteran patient load?

rlwo2008 on June 14, 2014 at 6:58 PM

The private sector already has state of the art centers for physical, traumatic brain injuries etc.

monalisa on June 14, 2014 at 5:53 PM

Is this true in terms of battlefield injuries? I would also think that soldiers, recovering from their wounds together with other soldiers, rather than being mixed in with, say people who drank too much and smashed up their car, would benefit from being together.

ncinca on June 14, 2014 at 7:12 PM

While we’re at it, how about making the active-duty military medical system responsible to its clients?

PersonFromPorlock on June 14, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Members of Congress ONLY listen to whoever has the largest pile of cash to donate. Individuals, and especially the Vets can’t compete with the Lobbyists of the VA and Unions. The Bureaucracy wins, as usual.

RADIOONE on June 14, 2014 at 11:02 PM

I’m a Vet and I think the VA sending Vets to private healthcare providers can be a good idea except for two things: First , there is not enough capacity in the private system to handle the increased number of VA patients and will lead to a shortage of health care providers for all. Health care rationing will undoubtedly get worse. Second, the reimbursement rate may not be enough for the providers to sign on.

JimGeb on June 15, 2014 at 3:10 AM