Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 27, 2010

DON'T PRIVATIZE THE 'BEST CARE ANYWHERE'.... In a normal year, Ken Buck would be having a lot more trouble as a major-party U.S. Senate nominee. The far-right Coloradoan does, after all, support repealing the 17th Amendment, privatizing Social Security, eliminating the Department of Education, scraping the federal student loan program, and has talked about banning birth control and all abortion rights, even in cases of rape or incest. He's even said liberals are a bigger threat than terrorists.

But as things stand, polls show him with a narrow lead headed into November. Of course, the more Buck talks, the more Colorado voters have a chance to understand his ideology. We recently learned, for example, that Buck thinks it makes sense to privatize VA hospitals.

"Would a Veterans Administration hospital that is run by the private sector be better run then by the public sector? In my view, yes."

For the Washington Monthly, this has been a long-time area of interest. In 2005, we published a Philip Longman piece on V.A. hospitals called, "The Best Care Anywhere."

As Longman explained at the time, "Who do you think receives higher-quality health care. Medicare patients who are free to pick their own doctors and specialists? Or aging veterans stuck in those presumably filthy VA hospitals with their antiquated equipment, uncaring administrators, and incompetent staff? An answer came in 2003, when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be 'significantly better.' ... The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study that compared veterans health facilities with commercial managed-care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care."

Yes, the taxpayer-financed, government-run V.A. hospitals are some of the finest medical facilities in the country. Buck thinks they'd be better off being privatized, but that's largely because he's popping off on a subject he doesn't understand.

As his quote gained attention, the Buck campaign "clarified" the matter, telling reporters, "Ken said that private companies do a better job than the government.... Take a look at Walter Reed."

That might make sense, if Walter Reed were a V.A. hospital -- it's not -- and if the government weren't already doing such a good job with actual V.A. facilities.

In other words, Buck helped demonstrate that he doesn't know what he's talking about, and compounded the problem, by having his campaign spokesperson show he doesn't know what he's talking about, either.

Voters may not care, but given the number of veterans we have deserve first-class medical care, they probably should.

Steve Benen 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Won't hurt him with the public at large because they all think Walter Reed has to be VA. Never under estimate the stupidity of a US citizen, who now seems inclined to vote for all the wrong reasons.

Posted by: KK on September 27, 2010 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

In all of my years receiving care from the VA as a 100% disabled veteran, I have done nothing but praise the excellent level of care I've received.

Until this past year when vets in our area were transferred en masse from the Gainesville system to the Orlando system.

I understand that such an action was premature. The VA is building an new hospital in Orlando that's not due to open until 2012.

Yet they failed to provide funding for the huge influx of new patients resulting in substandard care and substandard patient relations.

Posted by: Howey on September 27, 2010 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK


What Ken Buck knows that you don't, is that since the study was made in 2003, presumably with data prior to 2003, Bush had the better part of 8 years to further the "gummint is bad" meme. So maybe now the VA sucks (by virtue of appointing people who are incompetent to run it).

best, Ian

ok. the above is snark, which, from reading Howey's post, I am happy to hear. But my point remains. Hope the Orlando situation gets better for you, Howey.

Posted by: Ian on September 27, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I thought the student loan program already got scraped. Well, the pointless Republican supported profiteering got scraped off anyway.

Posted by: emjayay on September 27, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Saying Walter Reed is not a VA hospital is a distinction without a difference and is just the sort of propeller head statement that loses arguments for Democrats.

Posted by: Observer on September 27, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Ideology of any sort ignores inconvenient facts.

Republicans believe that private for profit enterprises are good, and government of any kind is, by it's very nature, bad.

Neither one, being run by humans, is perfect. Waste, fraud, and abuse does not play favorites.

I like my government roads, police, firemen, military, and post office.

Posted by: DAY on September 27, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you don't or either fail to understand that when they say it could be better run by private business they mean: IT WILL MAKE MONEY.

People like Buck are not concerned about the quality of service, they are concerned about the quantity of profits.

There is nothing you can say to make them think otherwise. Their whole world view is the so-called "free market" and the cash it can generate. Wounded and disabled veterans are just widgits waiting for some entrepenuer to find the most monetarily efficient way of using them to line his pockets.

Pretty much all makes sense when you look at it through dollar goggles.

Posted by: martin on September 27, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't Walter Reed have a chunk of its services privatized under Bush, years before the problems there became public?

Posted by: 2Manchu on September 27, 2010 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

The veterans I see as a home health nurse, WWII mostly, have a lot of choice in their care and often see some private doctors, but value the Vets Hospital for its range of services and pharmacy.
It's important to point out that many choose to use their Vets Hospital instead of private care.

Posted by: Nancy Green on September 27, 2010 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

2manchu beat me to it: The upkeep of Walter Reed -- which was the problem -- was privatized after Bush took office.

I think the kids would call that a "REALITY FAIL."

Posted by: Mark D on September 27, 2010 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Having lived in Greeley for awhile a long time ago,I know just exactly what a bunch of morons Weld County Republicans are, so for Buck to sound off like this is not that surprising. I wonder if ol' Two-Gun Buck ever actually served his country? Or is he just another standard-issue wingnut scumbag who thinks serving one's country is for those who do not have "other priorities" like he and every other wingnut service-dodger?

Posted by: TCinLA on September 27, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

Forgot to mention there is no way I will ever use my Medicare card, so long as I have mt VA card. There's no comparison in the quality (and cost) of the care.

Posted by: TCinLA on September 27, 2010 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Take a look at Walter Reed."

Exactly. As a couple others have pointed out, Walter Reed was privatized before it went to hell. As a matter of fact, the two executives who bought the place were former Haliburton execs. They then proceeded to cut corners on maintenance of the facilities and on patient care by driving away everyone from nurses to janitors, and by neglecting to repair facilities that were falling apart.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on September 27, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

No, TCinLA, out of Princeton, on to Wyoming to work in legislative offices, while attending law school in Laramie. No military service.

I do have both the excellent VA and a private backup affliated with medicare. The reason for the backup is in the event there may be lack of bed space at the VA. So, I have two primary doctors, both of whom are excellent and they, both, want Single Payer.

One interesting aside is one can not use their medicare at the VA because, as it was explained to me, the government can not bill itself.

Posted by: berttheclock on September 27, 2010 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Walter Reed is going to be shutting down in a year or so I think and all activities (and name I think) are being transferred to Bethesda.

Posted by: ET on September 27, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

My father is strongly against socialized medicine. When I asked him about Medicare he said he doesn't use it. He goes to the VA, which he says is terrific. Thus endeth the discussion.

As a vet, I'm proud of the care I receieve from the VA. It is remarkable and truly "the best care anywhere."

Posted by: Wayne on September 28, 2010 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

After 33 years in private medical practice I took a part-time position with VA Healthcare as semiretirement. Whereas the VA system was generally disrespected by private practice sector through the early 1990's, some of learned about the dramatic transformation to a high quality, managed cost healthcare system created under the leadership of Kenneth Kizer, starting in 1994. Phillip Longman describes the new VA Healthcare System in, "The Best Care Anywhere"......read it!

Posted by: Gerald Sitomer on October 10, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK



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