Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner explains why the McCain-Sanders bill is not exactly an elixir for the grotesque VA woes. Instead, we get from our Washington politicians more of the same ineffective posturing–throw money at the problem and pray we, the voters, lose interest. Let’s hope they feel better about themselves, because it sure isn’t going to make vets feel better or improve their health care. Read here Michael’s thoughtful analysis of what Washington could do if it were serious about helping our veterans. And contact your reps and senators about both Michael Tanner’s, as well as Cato’s Chris Preble and Michael Cannon’s enlightening commentary.
Washington’s second instinct is to throw money at the problem. The Senate has now done this, passing legislation sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would increase VA spending by roughly $2 billion, open 26 new clinics in 18 states and hire additional VA doctors and nurses. In the grand Washington tradition of add-ons, it also includes spending for things that have nothing to do with health care, such as guaranteeing “in-state” tuition at public colleges and universities to all veterans. Of course, since the bill is “emergency legislation,” it is not subject to normal budget rules, such as having to be paid for through taxes or cuts in other spending.
But the VA’s problem is not a lack of money. The VA spent $57 billion on health care last year, up 76 percent since 2007, while the number of unique patients increased by just 9 percent.
If there is one thing all Americans can agree on, it’s that we owe our veterans all the care they need to treat the injuries they suffered while serving their county. But that doesn’t mean that the federal government can or should run a massive bureaucracy that builds and owns hospitals, hires doctors and provides care directly to millions of veterans regardless of whether or not their illnesses are service-related.
In fact, if we should know anything by now, it’s that government does a terrible job of running a health care system.
After all, like all single-payer health systems around the world, the VA controls costs by imposing a “global budget” — a limit to how much it can spend on care. Thus year-to-year funding varies according to the whims of Congress, not according to what consumers want or are willing to spend. When resources can’t meet demand in a given year, the VA does what other single-payer systems do: it rations. Thus, while we might be shocked by how the VA covered up its waiting lists, we should not be shocked that they exist.
Cato’s Michael Tanner was pointing out the problems at the VA back in 2007.