In the fall of 2020, a patient in Augusta, Georgia, visited a local Veterans Affairs Medical Center for minimally invasive urological surgery.
Less than two weeks later, the OIG reported him dead. The inspector general concluded that there were “multiple deficiencies” in the patient’s care. In it, his primary care physician was said to have been unable to account for his history of chest infections and alcoholism.
Sadly, this is just one of countless instances where the VA failed to provide adequate care. It also shows why proposals to nationalize health care in the United States, like the bill that Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced in May to establish Medicare for All, are bad news.
The VA’s Inspector General submits a report to Congress on the VA’s performance every six months. And every six months, the story is the same. Gross incompetence, fraud, long wait times and substandard care.
The OIG’s latest report, covering the period from October 2021 to March 2022, identified more than $4 billion in “monetary impact,” including waste, questionable spending and fraud. A violation investigation led to more than 100 arrests of him for crimes including wire fraud and bribery. A Louisiana doctor received over $650,000 in kickbacks from a medical supply company.
But while the waste and criminality are irritating, the patient’s story is even worse.
A veteran who sought treatment and eventually died at a veterans center in New Mexico waited 175 days for a CT scan for possible lung cancer, according to the OIG. Nonetheless, the patient did not undergo a follow-up biopsy. The patient finally received a definitive cancer diagnosis at a non-VA hospital.
The OIG also reported a patient who died 17 days after being discharged from the VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida after a 33-day hospital stay. The inspector general concluded that the facility “failed to develop a discharge plan that adequately ensured patient safety and continuity of care.”
Even patients who are not in immediate danger face the stress of very long wait times. At the VA Clinic in Anaheim, Calif., at the beginning of June, a new patient was expected to wait 29 days before an appointment. At his three clinics in Jacksonville, Florida, the average wait time in early June was 52 days for him. A clinic in Fayetteville, North Carolina had 96 days earlier this month.
This is not particularly surprising. Long waits and sloppy care are hallmarks of single-payer healthcare worldwide.
According to the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank, after a referral from a general practitioner, Canadians wait a median of 25 weeks or more before receiving specialist care. Such delays have serious consequences. SecondStreet.org, another Canadian think tank, found that between 2020 and 2021, more than 11,500 Canadian patients died while waiting for surgery, procedures, or diagnostic scans. .
Canada and the VA offer a glimpse of the substandard care, needless suffering, and rampant fraud and abuse expected under Medicare for All.
Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute and a Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy. Her latest book is her False Premise, False Promise: The Disastroous Reality of Medicare for All (Encounter 2020). Follow her on her Twitter @sallypipes.