‘Government’ is just another word for the things we choose to do together:
The number of veterans seeking health care but ending up on waiting lists of one month or more is 50 percent higher now than it was a year ago when a scandal over false records and long wait times wracked the Department of Veterans Affairs, The New York Times reported. The VA also faces a budget shortfall of nearly $3 billion, the Times reported in a story posted online ahead of its Sunday editions. The agency is considering furloughs, hiring freezes and other significant moves to reduce the gap, the newspaper reported. In the last year, the VA has increased capacity by more than 7 million patient visits per year, double what officials originally thought they needed to fix shortcomings, the Times reported. However, the newspaper added, department officials did not anticipate just how much physician workloads and demand from veterans would continue to soar. At some major veterans hospitals, demand was up by one-fifth, the paper reported.
Unexpectedly. The Associated Press reported this spring that lengthy wait times remained a chronic problem, particularly throughout the South. This week’s update demonstrates that the problem has gotten worse across the board. Presumably, one explanatory factor here is that, well, fewer employees at VA hospitals and clinics are systematically lying their asses off about wait times in order to safeguard their precious taxpayer-funded performance bonuses. I wouldn’t be shocked if such malfeasance still exists within the system, but you’d think they’d at least ease up on the self-interested corruption for awhile. So we’re probably getting a slightly more accurate picture of wait times these days, I’d guess. But the broader explanation is simpler: Government bureaucracies aren’t good at doing big things well. Incompetence, negligence and failure are often the rule, rather than the exception. And when those big things entail, say, administering your personal healthcare, big problems ensue. Many on the Left will skim the passage excerpted above and dutifully reach the default conclusion: We must increase spending. But the VA scandal was never about insufficient funding. No, it flourished at the intersection of gross corruption and mass-scale ineptitude. Here’s Sean Davis writing at The Federalist last year:
Between 2000 and 2012, the VA’s budget nearly tripled, rising to $124 billion from $45 billion. Even after adjusting for medical inflation, which has grown much faster than normal consumer price inflation, the VA budget increased by 72 percent between 2000 and 2012. Over that same time, the total number of VA patients increased by 69 percent, from 3.3 million in 2000 to nearly 5.6 million in 2012. According to figures contained in the departmental appendices accompanying annual Office of Management and Budget proposals, the number of acute inpatients treated by the VA increased by only 49 percent. The VA has a whole bunch of problems, but a lack of funding ain’t one.
In chart form:
Nevertheless, Congress passed a VA reform bill last July authorizing $17 billion in new VA spending, including $10 billion in emergency funds. Roughly a year later, things are 50 percent worse. Money does not magically solve complex problems, and government will always been a clunky, unaccountable instrument for change. As much as conservatives tee off on Obamacare — as we should, for many, many, many reasons — the VA scandal and ongoing dysfunction is the best argument against government-run medicine we have. Think of it: Americans across the political spectrum agree that our veterans have earned our help in this regard and therefore support this discrete form of socialized healthcare. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have immense political incentives to make sure these men and women are cared for adequately. Doing right by our veterans is a consensus issue, the VA is funded generously, and yet…the agency is still failing miserably — a full year after an appalling scandal shocked and angered Americans. (As a reminder, the agency has been less than forthcoming about the repercussions for those responsible for said scandal). Many on the Left would like to expand the VA model to cover the entire country, supposedly out of “compassion.” No thanks.