Speed Reads

Let's get real

The VA is nothing like ObamaCare


The long-building scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs is, well, scandalous. But like all government scandals, people are trying to use it to pound whatever drum they were beating before it surfaced in the Phoenix VA hospital starting six months ago and then, very recently, became a Big Deal in Washington. One offshoot of the scandal is the argument that the VA hospital mess is a precursor of what to expect from ObamaCare.

Here's Kevin O'Brien at The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Americans who watch this story play out and fail to make the clear and obvious connection to ObamaCare will be guilty of willful ignorance. The systemic flaw is identical. It's just magnified on a massive scale.... Financial incentives and disincentives written into ObamaCare will, if allowed to play out, wipe out first the market for individual health insurance plans and, not long after, the plans that employers buy for employees. The result — and this was certainly an intended consequence — will be a medical insurance system at first dominated by and eventually exclusive to the federal government.... The VA offers precisely what ObamaCare offers: not a guarantee of treatment in time of need, but a guarantee of a place in line for treatment at a time of the bureaucracy's choosing. [Plain Dealer]

If true, this would be great news for liberal proponents of a Medicare-for-all, European-style, single-payer health care system. But of course that's not how ObamaCare is set up: On the consumer side, it's more a regulated market for buying private insurance combined with a mandate that everybody buy private coverage or pay a fine. Everybody except people on Medicare or Medicaid, or possibly VA care.

If O'Brien were somehow right that ObamaCare is designed and destined to lead us toward government-run health care, though, it makes more sense to compare ObamaCare to Medicare, which serves about 50 million people to the VA's 23 million living veterans/potential patients (some of whom are also on Medicare).

And Medicare is more popular than private insurance. A 2012 Commonwealth Fund study found that Medicare beneficiaries have better access to health care than people with private insurance, and this 2013 poll from Gallup shows that Medicare and Medicaid patients think they're getting a better deal. Why not argue that this is where ObamaCare is leading us? --Peter Weber