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Government & Politics

A Precursor of Things to Come?

The VA hospital in Phoenix left 40 vets to die waiting on a "secret waiting list."

Apr. 25, 2014

Before ObamaCare was passed or even considered as a bill, the federal government gained experience running a health system. For decades, it has run Veterans Affairs facilities catering to millions of war veterans, in essence setting up a parallel health system to that which non-veterans use. Hundreds of VA facilities across the country now treat our former servicemen and servicewomen.

Is it any wonder, then, that a VA hospital in the Phoenix area is attracting unwelcome attention for a scandal involving a “secret waiting list,” the topic of a recent CNN investigation? The way it worked was relatively simple: Veterans seeking treatment would receive a hard copy of their appointment information, but that information wasn’t being saved to the VA’s computerized system – no record of the appointment would be there, so no red flag would come up once a certain time period had passed. To outsiders and to higher-ups within the system, it appeared the Phoenix VA hospital was making significant inroads on providing timely appointments to those seeking treatment. In fact, many of those managing the hospital, including director Sharon Helman, received bonuses for their good work.

But for those veterans on the wrong side of the “secret waiting list” – a number ranging as high as 1,600 patients – the wait time was months, years, or in the case of one veteran documented in the CNN report, forever. Thomas Breen, 71, was one of at least 40 on this “secret waiting list” who died before follow-up treatment was given. Because he wasn’t seen within the prescribed time frame, the Phoenix facility did what bureaucrats do best: cover their rear ends by not leaving a paper trail. The weeks stretched into two months, with Breen finally securing an appointment slated for 10 weeks after his initial complaint – but a week after he succumbed to his affliction. Yet the wait even extends to the VA’s internal investigation itself, which is scheduled to begin next week, months after the CNN investigation began.

It’s worth asking whether this is the direction American health care will go for everyone, as the line between the government-provided VA health system and the private market for the rest of us begins to blur thanks to ObamaCare. Wait times are a common complaint in nations that have already gone down the road to socialized medicine, and doing whatever is needed to cover your behind is standard operating procedure for any government bureaucracy. Sadly, the two paths converged in Phoenix and hundreds of those who faithfully served our country have been betrayed by their government. Leftists mocked Sarah Palin for her “death panels” portrayal of ObamaCare, but it’s not a laughing matter.

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