American Elephants


More Trouble at the VA, But it’s a Symptom of an Overgrown Dysfunctional Government by The Elephant's Child
April 23, 2015, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,

A Veterans Affairs hospital in Beckley, West Virginia switched out patients’ prescribed medications with older drugs to cut costs, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) announced in a letter to Congress and the White House. The OSC is an independent federal agency that handles claims of whistleblower retaliation and improper personnel practices. They also found the hospital’s pharmacy and therapeutics committee was chaired by a non-physician. All violations of VA Policy and a risk to health and safety.

Many veterans are grappling with mental health issues, and switching medications may well be a big deal. W whistleblower reported on the corner-cutting.

A March report by the Veteran’s Affairs Inspector General found a Hampton VA hospital failed to flag a patient as a suicide risk, despite the patient disclosing suicidal thoughts to both emergency room doctors and the hospital’s mental health clinic. The patient was found dead shortly after of an apparent accidental overdose.

A federal investigation also is under way to determine whether the VA did enough to treat a Des Moines veteran who committed suicide after seeking treatment.

A December review by the Washington Free Beacon of thousands of errors and lapses in treatment at VA hospitals nationwide over the past few years found several similar instances where hospital staff failed to follow up on suicide concerns reported by veterans and their families, sometimes with fatal consequences.

The Washington Post, in an opinion piece asked in their headline “Why Don’t We Just Abolish the VA?

The men and women who serve in the military protect both the United States’ security and its values, including political liberty, free enterprise and individual choice.

How strange, then, that when their time in uniform ends, we thank them for their service and turn them over to the Department of Veterans Affairs, which epitomizes centralized bureaucracy.

There’s the key point — centralized bureaucracy. The article goes on to enumerate a long list of problems that have not been corrected. The author says “it’s a Soviet-style structure, minus the coherence of a one-party state”. Instead the VA answers to 535 members of Congress, after they answer to the VA, and after they answer to the state VA or regional VA or however the chain of command goes.

A hospital in a mid-sized city or even a smaller city will have a wide clientele who will know how well that institution performs, and if it’s not working, if there are big problems —they will get fixed. This is the big mistake of the hard left political class. They assume that things will be better if they are in charge, because their government will be more empathetic, more caring and more efficient — because they went to the right schools and associate with the right people and because they care. The trouble is that they care about having empathy far more than they actually care about things actually working. Socialized medicine does not work, as is clearly demonstrated by Britain’s National Health Service (NHS):

Over 9,000 people die each year needlessly thanks to the unwillingness of Britain’s political classes to embrace public-private partnerships in healthcare, a new report has found. Far from being the “envy of the world”, the report’s authors highlight the fact that the NHS lags behind many European models in terms of outcomes, and that Britain is far from being the only country to provide universal access to healthcare. (emphasis added)

When the Left’s political class wants to take over and nationalize something like health care, we must fight back. They really only want power and to feel good about making you dependent. on them. They want you to keep them in power for fear of losing the “good stuff” they believe they are giving you. If you are paying attention, you will see that they can’t even fix what’s wrong — even after it has been clearly pointed out to them.

Smaller government that does not try to do so much. That’s why we have a Constitution that the Left despises. Hillary has already volunteered that she wants to get rid of the First Amendment. Fewer bureaucracies doing busywork. Fewer unnecessary regulations, or is it really imperative that every pizza parlor prominently display the caloric content of each pizza ingredient?



So Who is This Jonathan Gruber Anyway? Everything You Wanted to Know: by The Elephant's Child

It’s quite clear that Dr. Gruber believes the American voter to be terminally stupid, unable to comprehend smart stuff like the Affordable Care Act. He is an economist at MIT, major contributor to the ObamaCare bill, yet unable to craft a law that is anything more than a political stunt, devised to sweep the public, over time, into a disastrous single-payer health-care system that will bankrupt the country and kill off  a lot of its customers earlier than necessary. Let’s face it, it’s lousy health insurance.

The federal government is unable to run a health care plan. Medicare in its current shape is going broke, hastened by the retirement of the Baby Boomers. It must be reformed, but Congress is scared to death to deal with it.  Meanwhile the government deals with it by paying doctors, hospitals and other providers less and less, and fewer and fewer doctors will accept Medicare payments.

Medicaid was meant to be insurance for those who could not afford insurance, and to get all the uninsured — insured. Studies show clearly that the uninsured have better health outcomes than those on Medicaid. Fewer and fewer doctors will see Medicaid patients at all. The Indian Health Service is said to be inferior to Medicaid.

And then there’s the Veterans Administration. The problems have been exposed in one of the Obama administrations worst scandals that has even had deaths among veterans waiting on an endless (probably non-existent) list for care. Wrapped up in fraud and self-serving  and public-sector unions, they can’t even manage to get rid of the people responsible.

You cannot take a medical system that everyone claims costs too much, add a vast bloated government bureaucracy on top, add on unnecessary freebies (like birth control that is extraordinarily cheap and will probably soon be offered over-the-counter) and claim that it will cost less than the free market. Inevitably, under such a system, doctors and hospitals would have to become government employees.

Dr. Gruber has a lot more to answer for than merely calling Americans stupid. It was not the American people who voted it into law, or who were fooled into thinking it was a good thing, but the Democrats in Congress. So the question becomes —just who were the stupid ones?



The VA Scandal Is Caused By the Perverse Incentives of Socialized Medicine. by The Elephant's Child

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Memorial Day just calls more attention to the scandal of the Veterans Administration hospital system. Democrats are in panic mode. This is a bad one. Nancy Pelosi is trying to blame it all on Bush, the usual fall-back position. She would have it that it is all the enormous influx of young veterans wounded in Bush’s wars. Nice try, but that’s not the case. It isn’t the young guys that are dying of inattention, despite their sometimes grievous wounds, they are younger and healthier. The problem is socialized medicine.

The reason Democrats are attracted to government-run health care is that the left is always focused on intent, not results. They believe in government by experts, the best and brightest, and ever more experts to get it right — in other words, in big government. Their intent is what matters. If the results aren’t right, they will fiddle and tweak until they get it fixed.  But they intend a bright and shining success.

When you guarantee beneficiaries free treatment which is open-ended in terms of cost, more patients are apt to seek treatment for less important reasons. They have no idea of the cost—they are guaranteed care. For the government, the patients are now their responsibility and the incentive is entirely to cut costs.

Doctors and nurses may well be wonderful, and choosing to work with veterans indicates a caring intent, when they could probably do as well or better in the private sector. But for the bureaucratic staff, the incentive is to force the medical staff to cover more patients in less time, to prescribe cheaper medicines, to do less costly procedures. Success at bringing down costs results in bigger bonuses and career advancement for the bureaucrats.Some are represented by unions. The incentives for unions are to gain bigger bonuses, better retirement, and better pay, not better care for vets.  Which results in long wait lists, hidden because they are embarrassing and certainly not resulting in career advancement— or exactly what we’ve got.

Democrats don’t really understand what all the fuss is about, because they are focused on their intent. The results can be tweaked to prevent such problems.

You can see  the intent of ObamaCare being tweaked daily by the president, as he issues executive orders and rewrites the law to overcome problems. But we have had added the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) which issues decisions on what preventative services will and will not be covered and for whom they are indicated. Got that? You don’t get to decide, it will be decided for you by a new agency filled with unaccountable bureaucrats.

The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) is tasked with cutting Medicare costs either through a reduction of services or by cutting the payments to providers. They simply don’t understand that they cannot cut payments to providers below a certain point or there will be few or only poorly qualified providers.

Whether with Medicare, Veterans Care or Medicaid, Obama and his advisers were particularly concerned with the higher costs of health care for older people. Statistically, the biggest expenses for health care are in their final years. If you can cut back on those expenses, and old people have fewer worthwhile life years ahead of them, then you are more apt to meet your budget.

And again, whenever care is free at the point of service, the more care people will demand. I wrote this in an earlier post, but this is what Obama said:

Obama did say that people might be better off taking a pain pill than getting surgery. He also said “the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives are accounting for potentially 80 percent of the total health care bill out there.” Excuse me, but isn’t that what health care is for?

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Milton Friedman on Socialized Medicine by The Elephant's Child

I love Milton Friedman’s clear explanations of simple economic principles. Do any of those on the Left ever watch any of these? Silly question, of course they don’t. Could we get all of these videos into the schools?  Never mind, I’m fantasizing.

 



Free-Market Medicine v. ObamaCare by The Elephant's Child

We recently demonstrated how free-market medicine works with a post about the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, which is a shining example. ObamaCare, on the other hand, is the left’s attempt to gradually funnel us all into single-payer, government-run health care.

Please note that ObamaCare is not about health, nor is it about medicine. It is about insurance and who pays for what. They tell us that ObamaCare will reduce costs and promise you all sorts of free goodies. Obama partly won the election by promising free contraceptives. (Well, of course they are not free because the rest of us will have to pay for them. I should clarify that: the young women who are getting “free” contraceptives will be paying for the “free contraceptives” of all the women in the country who are using contraceptives. Probably paying more than the $9.00 a month’s supply costs at a discount pharmacy. But I guess that’s how you learn about basic economics.

ObamaCare: think of it this way — draw two stick figures with a space between. Label one ‘patient‘ and the other ‘doctor.’ Between the two stick figures, draw a small box. Label that ‘insurance companies‘. Then above the small box, draw a much bigger box. Label that one, oh, just ‘government’ to represent the over 100 agencies and offices and euphemistically named bureaus that will supervise and control the patients and the doctors, the insurance companies, the pharmacies, the suppliers, the hospitals. All those agencies have who-knows-how-many employees who all have salaries which are excessive, except by DC standards. That little exercise alone should tell you that ObamaCare is going to cost a lot more. Yet ObamaCare is all supposedly about how much it will save you. (Not really, it is really about making you dependent on liberal government, so you will always vote for liberals.)

So, while free-market medicine is about competition and creativity, innovation and plain old American free enterprise, ObamaCare is about folding you into the arms of bureaucracy, where you will forever be dependent on government, until they decide that it costs too much.  Medicine becomes not a matter of the care a doctor gives to a patient, but for the physicians, it becomes a matter of trying to get paid enough to cover costs. For hospitals and suppliers, it becomes a matter of trying to cut costs to comply with government budgets.  The British NHS provides a running example of what we will become in time. To wit:

A BID to save nearly £3billion by slashing appointments with a doctor and treating patients via computer will put lives at risk, ministers were warned.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is planning a technological revolution that could spell the end of the traditional doctor’s surgery.

A new system of “virtual clinics” is being planned in which GPs connect with patients via iPads and Skype, an idea that NHS bosses are importing from India.

The reforms would save £2.9 billion “almost immediately” and improve the lives of most patients, for example by avoiding the need to find child care during appointments, Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said last week.

However, critics are concerned the initiative would create a two-tier NHS in which the less technologically able, particularly the elderly, would be left behind….

The ideas, contained in a Health Department report called Digital First, include arming community nurses with iPads in rural areas and making more use of Skype video calling between GPs and patients. There will be more online assessments “augmented” with video calls.

Mobile phone “apps” will be used to access lab reports and health records and negative test results will be sent by text messages rather than delivered in person. Mr Hunt, who made a fortune by creating an internet company, believes that while mobile broadband technology is revolutionising most walks of life, there is a problem once ­people encounter the relatively antiquated systems of the NHS.

The Government is trying to fill a £20 billion NHS funding gap and health chiefs want to reduce “needless” appointments that clog up staff time.

Well, the NHS has kept patients parked in ambulances outside hospitals because they can have only a specified number of admissions a day, they’ve conveniently offed seniors in their final years with ‘”do not resuscitate ” notes on the charts, cut back on cleaning and linen changing and drinking water and food. The battle has become — how to cut costs, not patient care and saving lives.

The innovation and inventiveness that produce savings are eliminated by the overweening bloated weight of bureaucracy, once established, is always seeking more power and more control, and attempting to reduce the costs that they themselves created with their processes.



The Dependency Agenda by The Elephant's Child

Wise Words from Thomas Sowell: by The Elephant's Child

(click to enlarge)
 



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