Great news from the world of single-payer: VA illegally hiring doctors with revoked licenses

When you run a monopoly and have no accountability, who cares who gets hired? Well, the patients trapped in the single-payer system might have a concern or two, who in this case are America’s former fighting men and women. USA Today revealed yesterday that the Veterans Administration intentionally hired doctors and other practitioners who had their credentials revoked in other jurisdictions, thanks to a policy set forth in direct contravention to the law:

The Department of Veterans Affairs has allowed its hospitals across the country to hire health care providers with revoked medical licenses for at least 15 years in violation of federal law, a USA TODAY investigation found.

The VA issued national guidelines in 2002 giving local hospitals discretion to hire clinicians after “prior consideration of all relevant facts surrounding” any revocations and as long as they still had a license in one state.

But a federal law passed in 1999 bars the VA from employing any health care worker whose license has been yanked by any state. …

The USA TODAY investigation published earlier this month found that in addition to hiring Schneider, VA hospitals have knowingly hired other health care providers with past license discipline. In some cases, they have gone on to harm veterans.

The article follows one doctor identified by USA Today as an example of the illegal policy. Neurosurgeon John Henry Scheider, who was the subject of an earlier exposé by the newspaper, had his license revoked in Wyoming after a series of malpractice claims, including one patient who died after four brain operations in as many weeks. “I’m appalled by the ineptitude at the VA,” the patient’s daughter told USA Today when she discovered that Schneider had been hired to conduct surgery on veterans. Some of Schneider’s VA patients are suffering complications after his surgeries, and the VA will likely find itself in court over those now that his illegal employment has been uncovered.

Schneider’s hardly the only instance, however, which prompted yesterday’s explosive followup. One psychiatrist in an Oklahoma facility had been disciplined previous to his employment at the VA for sleeping with a patient, and he then went on to sleep with a VA patient after getting hired. Another overprescribed narcotics, and a Louisiana VA clinic hired a psychologist with felonies on his record. No one bothered to run a background check for a government position, apparently.

In other words, this appears to be a widespread issue. After USA Today exposed Schneider and the 2002 guidance, members of Congress want to know now why the VA issued a guidance that directly contradicted federal law, and why it took fifteen years to discover it. This week, they stepped up the pressure, demanding that VA Secretary David Shulkin launch an immediate review of all personnel records to determine how many providers work illegally within his organization:

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., demanded in his own letter that Shulkin launch a nationwide review to identify other VA health care workers with malpractice complaints and settlements or sanctions for poor care.

Coffman said in an interview that he worries the VA has become a “dumping ground” for such providers, who may not be able to find work or secure malpractice insurance in the private sector if past claims or discipline render them too risky. The agency doesn’t require medical workers to have malpractice insurance — the VA pays claims with taxpayer dollars.

“The dumping ground for all these folks is the VA,” Coffman said.

Veterans might also believe that it’s their dumping ground, too. And they will be correct in thinking so as long as the VA system keeps them locked into a single-payer system where the only accountability appears to be the occasional whistleblower or investigative reporter, and where most of the patients have nowhere else to go for care.

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