Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Healthcare Choices

Recently, this author participated in a discussion on another blog about the issue of government run healthcare, as it is currently being proposed. One of the semi-regulars of that blog made a statement which I would like to look at a little closer.

During the course of the discussion I asked some questions, which the commenter declined to answer. And that's okay. This is not the center of my contention, as he is fully within his rights to keep silent on whatever subject he wishes. It was unclear why he likes to ask his questions and then refuses to answer those directed toward him. But it is his right, nonetheless.

The statement he made is one of several that liberals tend to use when seeking to justify why they support a corrupt and incompetent government's desire to control healthcare. The comment I am referring to reads as follows: a disabled veteran, I get all my health care through the VA. So I'm biased when it comes to a government-run health care system.

I have no way of knowing exactly what the gentleman was implying here, but I know how it comes across. I also know there are many who use the same kind of language to draw a parallel between VA benefits and what Congress wants to create for the American people. In one respect they are right and in the other, they couldn't be further from the truth.

Let's look at this a little closer, shall we?

For one thing, liberals often are confused about veterans benefits. They are earned. They are not welfare. They are not in any way a handout. Whoever earned them, whether it's the retiree or the vet injured in the line of duty, deserves them and has a right to them --- so as long as the government provides them.

Most retirees I know can choose to seek medical care at VA hospitals and clinics (if they are disabled at the time of discharge), active duty bases (after active duty personnel and their dependents have received care), and/or use their Tricare insurance for treatment in the private sector.
Almost every last military retiree I have ever known (in modern times) has chosen to use their Tricare, in the private sector.

Why would that be, you ask?

First, let's consider this story.

Last week, 20-year-old Colton Read, who grew up in Arlington and who's now in the U. S. Air Force, went to have laparoscopic surgery to remove his gall-bladder at David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento.

His mother, Shelly Read-Miller says he wasn't worried. "He said 'Mom, this is routine, it's no big deal.'"

But what happened during surgery turned out to be a very big deal.

You can read the rest of the story, if you wish.

The important thing to note is that things like this happen more times than people think. The military is a breeding ground for doctors paying the government back for their schooling, it is their form of residency. They practice, they learn, and sometimes it comes by trial and error (with error being the operative word). They are human, they do not necessarily act with malice. But in the end, the outcome may not be the desired one of choice.

Older doctors (who are higher in rank than the residents) are not always the prime choice of the private sector, so many stay in the military for the malpractice protection. Military personnel cannot choose a doctor. If they present for care and the base happens to have a doctor in the area of specialty that is required, there is no chance to be referred off base or on another one.

Then, there's this little problem with the VA. As I said earlier, this involves a choice. To choose or not to choose VA depends on a lot of things. Every case stands on its own, by itself. There are never two cases, exactly alike.

Personally, I am not able to comprehend the reasoning for choosing care at the VA, over the private sector using Tricare. For many, it's the only choice they can afford. I understand that.

Many are jobless, or making low wages. Some have mental health or addiction issues and are not able to work. I understand why they are there. But I do fail to see how the VA can possibly deliver better care than the private sector, especially when I read
stories like this.

A congressional panel is pressing the Department of Veterans Affairs to disclose on Tuesday whether non-sterile equipment that may have exposed 10,000 veterans to HIV and other infections was isolated to three Southeast hospitals or is part of a wider problem.

I was a patient in a VA Hospital many years ago. I had lost a job from layoffs and had no health insurance, so my choices were limited when I got sick. With a mass in my neck that appeared in the span of about 3-4 days, I took my DD214, drove into the local VA's ER, and presented myself for treatment. I waited a long time to see an ENT resident from the IU School of Medicine. To make a long story short, I ended up needing surgery. Three months later, they removed the mass which was not malignant, but was a bit disfiguring.

When I left, I picked up a prescription for some pain pills and signed my name. Care wasn't quite up to standard, but I couldn't complain because my choices were limited. One example, no one (and I mean no one) including the house nursing supervisor could get an IV in me. I was a young twentysomething man, with garden hoses for veins and they all took turns sticking me multiple times. It was a doctor that finally got one in after they blew no less than five choice veins.

I said all of that to say this, VA is not great care. It wasn't then, but it is especially true today. The people who staff it are not the cream of the crop, the buildings and equipment are sub-par. The system is overloaded with disabled vets from the two wars. How can it be a model for anything?

So how does that play into the healthcare debate?


Just let government take over and the outcome will be services like are provided to veterans. This is precisely why the vast majority of vets that I know, stay in the private sector. Tricare goes anywhere the member wants to use it. Healthcare providers who are in competition with each other, tend to do better jobs. Not that there aren't problems and not that there aren't incidents of private sector negligence and malpractice, but overall outcomes are much better than the horror stories we have looked at here today.

During the course of this process ask your House Representative and Senators, something. Are they are going to sign on to this for their healthcare coverage or will they keep the cushy plan they already have? If they opt to keep what they have, they are retaining the choices for themselves and doling out garbage to the people.

I don't know about you, but this sounds an awful lot like the landed nobles and peasantry divide, in medieval feudalism.


Leslie said...

Well said LA! When my dad told me he needed to go to the doctor for a major test my first thought (and question) was "You aren't going to the VA are you?" How sad to have that fear. He used his Tricare to go to a private sector hospital for his test, which added some relief to the stress of the situation.

It is very telling if any congressmen decides to stick with their current plan instead of picking up the option they want to 'offer' to the American people. You spoke it perfectly in your last two lines:

"I don't know about you, but this sounds an awful lot like the landed nobles and peasantry divide, in medieval feudalism."

Anonymous said...

An excellent discussion, LA.

Let us recall (and remember) that the government health care proposal isn’t about health care. It is about exercising the power of government over the will of the people in direct violation of the United States Constitution, which purpose is to limit government. But there are also important other factors relevant to this discussion. High among these is that the Congress predicates the need for a national health care system on MISINFORMATION.

There may be 50 million people without health care in this country, until you strip out 20 million illegal aliens; then there is only 30 million. And then strip out fifteen million individuals who decided not to participate in employer-provided health care. What remains is about FIVE PERCENT of the US Population. Should we do something about these people? Of course; we should address this problem through the States, consistent with the Tenth Amendment. In perpetuating this LIE OF OMISSION, the federal government seeks to create a crisis (because Fifty Million sounds like tons of people). And by creating a crisis, politicians hope that most American voters will support this intended program. I wish I had confidence that the American people are capable of looking past the smoke and mirrors.

As to the VA, it is difficult to imagine that the “earned benefit” of medical care for veterans is substandard health care, particularly when members of Congress have access to such giants of medical technology as Bethesda Naval Hospital and Walter Reed Army Hospital. What have members of Congress done for their country to “earn” such benefits? Not a damn thing. And yet the assault against military veterans and retirees continues. Were it not for veterans and retiree lobby organizations, Congress would already have eliminated or curtailed earned benefits and entitlements for veterans and retirees.

Should anyone wonder why veterans and retirees need organizations to lobby on their behalf, the answer is that Congress is a den of snakes who think nothing about reneging on promises made to the men and women to serve their country in uniform. But I dare say that if Congress intends to provide Jane and Joe Citizen the kind of “medical care” currently offered through the Veterans’ Administration, our federal courts would be packed to the ceiling with lawsuits. Good luck with that, Mr. and Mrs. America.

LASunsett said...

//He used his Tricare to go to a private sector hospital for his test, which added some relief to the stress of the situation.//

Whenever humans are involved, nothing is perfect. Even private sector medicine is not exempt.

But when we have a system that is prone to error due to faulty infrastructure, we will see more calamity and more failure. That's just the odds.

LASunsett said...

//There may be 50 million people without health care in this country, until you strip out 20 million illegal aliens; then there is only 30 million. And then strip out fifteen million individuals who decided not to participate in employer-provided health care. What remains is about FIVE PERCENT of the US Population.//

This is a classic example of how politicians influence people to fall for their BS. But when no one with a platform can present this information, it becomes accepted as fact without question.

There are 50 million without healthcare?

"That's sad, that's a travesty. Something must be done now. I wish they would do something."

The person then changes channels before they can hear the rest of the story, because they do not want to miss American Idol or Dance Your Fat Ass Off.