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Op-Ed: Wounded vets need universal health care, not 'separate but equal'

By Calvin Wolf     Aug 28, 2014 in Health
The VA scandal has shocked America to its core and exposed a bloated bureaucracy run amok. What veterans, and all Americans, need is universal health care with equitable access to all citizens. Playing "separate but equal" will no longer work.
Universal health care is a controversial and contentious issue, but it really shouldn't be. After all, we have public education where we spend extraordinary amounts of money and time helping all citizens, regardless of wealth or ability, pursue education, certification, and a shot at a "good job" and the American dream. Few argue against this system despite its financial inefficiency. Yet, strangely, many are appalled at the idea that we should treat and maintain the health of all citizens. People who would never publicly opine that we should not bother to try and educate the unintelligent will vociferously argue that no public funds should go to the medical care of the overweight or poor of habit.
Unlike many industrialized nations, the U.S. has no universal public health care. Instead, we have "separate but equal" health care: Some citizens have health insurance through their employers, some purchase individual plans on their own, some are on Medicare, some receive Medicaid, and military veterans use the VA. The VA scandal, which has caused a brutal thrashing of the Department of Veterans Affairs' reputation, continues to unfold. According to USA Today, the VA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has reported a "breakdown of the ethics system" in the VA's health care program.
The scandal broke months ago when it was revealed that VA hospitals, especially the one in Phoenix, were falsifying records and that some veterans had died while waiting for medical treatment. Since then, VA hospitals have been exposed as facing massive backlogs of patients and having senior staff who were aware of problems and failed to report them. The VA is scrambling to do damage control, including paying private physicians to see veterans who had been stuck on VA hospital wait lists.
America's "separate but equal" health care systems are not working. The mix of public funding and private treatment is inefficient and has created an incentive for doctor overbilling and fraud. There is insufficient oversight and little control of cost. Those who must rely on private health care have no powerful entity in their corner fighting to prevent medical costs from soaring, allowing profit-seeking doctors and hospitals to bilk desperate patients.
How much does treatment cost? You have no choice but to pay. Laymen have little recourse to fight complex medical billing. We rely blindly on "experts" who, despite the Hippocratic Oath, seek ever increasing profits.
Wounded veterans must either rely on the antiquated and inefficient VA or delve into the private health care maelstrom. Neither is a good option or fair to those who valiantly served their country. Instead, all citizens should receive public, universal health care. Only then can oversight be guaranteed and costs be maintained.
We do it for education, so why not health care?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Public health, Universal health care, Universal health coverage, Veterans administration, Veterans affairs
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