President Obama is “madder than hell” about the long-running scandal in the Veterans Affairs healthcare system. He finally addressed the issue publicly on Wednesday. His liberal allies, meanwhile, would also like everyone to know that the scandal is a “serious problem,” but perhaps not as troubling as the fact that REPUBLICANS HATE VETERANS.
The VA scandal looks pretty bad—dozens may have died as a result of excess wait times—so liberals don’t really have a choice but to be outraged, even as they insist that Obama, who has been in office for five years now, is in no way responsible.
Because I love it when liberals write about what’s REALLY motivating Republicans/conservatives, here’s another reason the VA scandal is incredibly inconvenient for liberals: For years, they’ve been touting the VA as a model for socialized medicine. And now, they look pretty foolish for doing so.
Here is Paul Krugman, writing in 2006:
American health care is desperately in need of reform. But what form should change take? Are there any useful examples we can turn to for guidance?
Well, I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics.
No, I’m not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.
Here is Krugman again, in 2011:
What Mr. Romney and everyone else should know is that the [Veterans Health Administration] is a huge policy success story, which offers important lessons for future health reform. …
And yes, this is “socialized medicine” — although some private systems, like Kaiser Permanente, share many of the V.H.A.’s virtues. But it works — and suggests what it will take to solve the troubles of U.S. health care more broadly.
This argument has been fairly popular in liberal circles for years. Phillip Longman has written extensively about how great the VA healthcare system is and why it should serve as a model for broader healthcare reform.
In 2009, wonkstar Ezra Klein wrote that expanding the VA healthcare system to non-veterans was “one of my favorite ideas.”
As recently as September 2013, organizations that support government-run healthcare, such as Physicians for a National Health Program, were praising the VA healthcare as an example of a single-payer system that provides “better care for more people at far less cost.”
We are constantly told by liberals that isolated disasters don’t speak to the efficacy of Big Government writ large. As The New Republic’s Brian Beutler writes, devoted liberals shouldn’t allow the VA scandal to “shake their belief in a fallible government’s ability to do big, important things.”
UPDATE: Here is Think Progress getting in on the action. In an October 2013 post “attacking” Ted Cruz for supporting healthcare for veterans but not supporting Obamacare, Igor Volsky writes:
Since undergoing major reforms during the Clinton administration, the fully integrated structure of government doctors and hospitals in the Veterans Health Administration provides veterans with benefits that are the envy of the rest of the health care system. A study by the RAND Corporation found that “VA patients were more likely to receive recommended care” and “received consistently better care across the board, including screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow up.” [emphasis added]