Ron Bailey writes that the Walter Reed scandal shows what government-run medicine would be like for the rest of us:
Crappy hospitals, endless waits, mountains of paperwork and, at the end of the day, no real accountability from the people who run the joint. Folks, if the government can’t or won’t take good care of our injured soldiers, what makes you think that it will take good care of little Sally or Uncle Bill?
Health care in the United States is screwed up. This is largely due to bad government policies, e.g., third party payment encouraged through the tax code and multiplying state insurance mandates that unnecessarily boost costs. As the example of Walter Reed is warning us, putting total control of all health care in the hands of those who wrecked it in first place–Congress, states and federal agencies–is the wrong way to go.
The VA system has been broken for a long time — despite massive increases in funding in recent years. And as any vet who has gone through the VA system will tell you, it’s been broken for a very long time. It isn’t that VA doctors are necessarily any worse than anyone else or that the VA doesn’t have enough equipment, it’s that there’s a bureaucratic mentality that adds tons of needless complications to everything.
The Walter Reed scandal will hopefully make things better for America’s injured servicemembers — but it should also serve as a warning to the rest of us. The essential problem with a government-run healthcare system is that it lacks accountability. Eliminate the ability for people to choose another system and the only remaining choice will progressively get worse. The situation at Walter Reed is the result of a military bureaucracy run amok while those who were responsible for providing care had little authority. That isn’t a particularized fault to this instance, but a systemic one to any government-run bureaucracy.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum reminds us that Walter Reed isn’t part of the VA system. He’s quite right, although the larger point remains. Any government bureaucracy, be it the VA or the military medical system experiences the same pressures due to their makeup. The source of both their problems are the same, and the same would happen to the civilian system were it centralized in the same way.