Two days ago, Senate Democrats shrugged off the House bill that would allow more flexibility to terminate VA officials who contributed to the wait-list fraud scandal that has exploded over the past month. Yesterday, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) shifted to a demand for Senate action, if not outright changes at the top, as more allegations of wrongdoing emerged:
What moved Nelson off of the party line expressed by Chuck Schumer, who offered a platitude about handling things administratively instead of Congressional action? Miami’s CBS affiliate reported on accusations of more deaths from long wait times due to bungled resource management, adding to the deaths seen in Phoenix:
In February, a cardiovascular surgeon at the Miami VA hospital complained to one of his superiors that “patients had died” because a piece of equipment that might have saved their lives was left in a Broward warehouse, according to an email obtained by CBS4 News.
The February 27 email was sent by Dr. Tomer Karas to the VA’s chief of surgery Dr. Seth Spector. In the email, Karas complained about a device known as the TandemHeart – which keeps blood following during certain sensitive procedures.
“It is my understanding that the TandemHeart has never been used here because of a nursing administration issue,” Karas wrote. “I am not clear on what the issue is but I believe it has to do with concerns over competency and training.”
In his email to Spector, Karas went on to relay a conversation he had with a VA cardiologist, Dr. Carlos Alfonso.
“In discussions with Dr. Alfonso,” Karas wrote, “I understand that patients have died in our cath lab due to inability to offer a higher level of support … even while the TandemHeart was physically available.”
Karas then added: “I am told the TandemHeart currently resides in a warehouse in Broward.”
Note that the VA actually owns the Tandem Heart device, so it’s not a lack of proper equipment. They just haven’t bothered to take it out of storage, while veterans have allegedly died from its absence. How many other pieces of critical equipment get purchased, only to sit in warehouses while veterans wait for quality medical care?
And how long are they really waiting? This Fort Collins veteran had to wait months for an MRI despite an emergency-room admission for a brain injury:
After a bad fall, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Tom Mehan ended up in the Cheyenne Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s emergency room. He told CBS4 he waited months for care.
“Some of my senses blanked out for a while, then came back a little; my taste, hearing, sight came back. I was thankful about that,” Mehan said.
Mehan says doctors ran some tests immediately, but for other procedures he had to wait.
“They told me I fainted after doing the tests they did and that took like three months to get the MRI scheduled,” Mehan said.
The Cheyenne center defended its record:
A spokesman for the Cheyenne center issued a statement on the matter
“It is important to allow OIG’s independent and objective review to proceed until completion, and OIG has advised VA against providing information that could potentially compromise their ongoing review,” it said in the statement.
“When you come in as an ER patient in a civilian hospital they just go through everything pretty quick, comparatively speaking,” Mehan said.
Last year, while working at home, I began to have symptoms of a stroke — a lack of symmetry in my facial muscles, difficulty seeing out of one eye, and dizziness. We called for an ambulance and got admitted to the ER. Less than two hours later, they had me in the MRI looking for potential brain damage. (Insert your joke here.) It turned out to be nothing — a form of migraine which I had not experienced before — and I went home relieved. My symptoms were nowhere near as profound as Mehan’s, and I cannot imagine having to wait three months to determine whether my brain was bleeding or not.
This single-payer system clearly does not work, and we’ve wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on it while top officials did nothing to fix it. That was also the Wall Street Journal’s conclusion yesterday:
President Obama addressed the Veterans Affairs scandal on Wednesday, saying he’s waiting for an Inspector General “audit” of what went wrong. And the press corps is debating whether VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should be fired. These are sideshows. 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’s behind this success? Crucially, the V.H.A. is an integrated system, which provides health care as well as paying for it. So it’s free from the perverse incentives created when doctors and hospitals profit from expensive tests and procedures, whether or not those procedures actually make medical sense.”
Ah, yes, the VA lacks the evil profit motive. 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.
If this is what GovernmentCare does to our veterans, what would be in store for the rest of us?