Selected letters on the VA scandal

The following four letters to the editor represent a sampling of opinion by single-payer advocates across the U.S. on the recently exposed wait-time problems in the Veterans Health Administration. For more on the current VA situation, see PNHP's Articles of Interest and Dr. Don McCanne's Quote of the Day.

The VA scandal, and the ones beyond

By Inge De Becker, M.D.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Letters, May 31, 2014

True, the VA has waiting lists, real and fake. We spend fortunes to send youngsters to war, yet underfund their care when they come home. They suffer for no good reason.

That is unacceptable.

Here’s what else is unacceptable. Even with the Affordable Care Act, 30 million U.S. people will remain uninsured. No one keeps their waiting lists, but each year tens of thousands will die because they lack adequate access to medical care. Nearly half of the states refuse to expand Medicaid, effectively condemning more than 7,000 uninsured each year to preventable deaths. Medical bills remain the leading cause of bankruptcy. We don’t have enough primary care physicians, both inside and outside the VA.

Even the best programs could be better, and doctoring waiting lists must stop, but patient surveys still make the VA the highest-rated health care program in the country. Let’s face it. The VA is a public, single-payer health care program. The day the United States and Minnesota choose an adequately funded, public single-payer system, everyone will have access to timely care, and everyone will be protected from financial disaster in time of illness.

Now that is acceptable.

Dr. Inge De Becker resides in St. Paul.


We need improved Medicare for all

By G. Richard Dundas, M.D.
Bennington (Vt.) Banner, Letters, June 4, 2014

We read in the Banner that as many as 40 veterans may have died in Phoenix because they could not get needed care at the VA hospital. This is truly outrageous (surely an overused adjective but probably better than disgraceful). We must do better for our veterans.

Here is another statistic that you may or may not want to know depending on your political mindset. It is estimated that in 2013 there were over 40,000 Americans (not a misprint) who died because they had no health insurance and could not access health care in a timely manner. This is similarly outrageous.

I long for the day when we Americans are smart enough to elect leaders who can translate outrage into action. The action that we need is improved Medicare for all. Everybody in, nobody out.

Dr. G. Richard Dundas resides in Bennington.


Addressing the problems at the VA

By Philip R. Lee, M.D., and Philip Caper, M.D.
The New York Times, Letters, June 2, 2014

Part of the cause of the long waiting times in the V.A. system is surely a combination of the V.A.’s difficulties in recruiting doctors (especially primary care doctors) and the surge in demand in recent years due to our military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither of these causes of the current backlog will be fixed quickly.

If Congress is serious about helping to alleviate the problem and showing our gratitude to and support for our veterans, it will expand Medicare coverage to include all veterans. If that is done, our veterans could choose between the V.A. system and any doctor who participates in Medicare.

Medicare is approaching its 50th anniversary as one of the most durable, successful and popular federal programs ever created. Do our veterans deserve any less?

Dr. Lee, a Korea veteran, was an assistant secretary for health in the Johnson and Clinton administrations. Dr. Caper was a senior health care adviser to Senator Edward M. Kennedy; he resides in Brooklin, Maine.


Single-payer would fix health care

By Bob Fischer
Register Guard (Eugene, Ore.), Letters, June 2, 2014

In his May 24 letter Roger Russell said the serious problems at Veterans Affairs hospitals have to do with allegations of veterans waiting weeks or months to see a doctor, malpractice, fraud and even unnecessary deaths.

Those are symptoms of serious problems related to the VA’s size and financing. It’s too small to handle the enormous need, and it doesn’t receive the resources it needs to do the job.

Russell said having a single-payer system would mean the federal government would take over and control the nation’s health care system. That’s wrong, too, with the error due to confusing health care financing with health care delivery.

Single-payer is about financing health care. It’s like Medicare. Under a single-payer system, the government pays the bills and health care delivery is left in the hands of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, a matter between patients and their doctors. Unlike private insurance companies, the government doesn’t intrude or interfere.

Single-payer means the for-profit insurance industry is taken out of the health care equation. Private insurance companies are the reason Americans pay twice as much for health care as people of other industrialized nations, and they’re the reason we get worse health care outcomes.

If we want to fix our health care system, single-payer is the only way to do it.

Bob Fischer resides in Bandon, Ore.