I don’t know what went wrong out there in Phoenix or wherever but after months of personal experience comparing health care for my Dad delivered by the United States Department of Veteran Affairs vs. private care providers I can say this much: if the VA represents socialized medicine then I’m all for it.
Why? For starters, the doctors and other personnel at the VA don’t have to worry about insurance companies and their bizarre penny pinching. And they don’t have to make a profit. The result is that they can spend all of their time and concern on the science of caring for patients. They’re not about getting rich. I’ve looked at the parking lots. They drive nice enough cars, finer than most of us drive, but you don’t see the Escalades and Mercedes and such found in the doctor lots at private hospitals.
VA doctors actually call to check on him. They write comprehensive notes after visits that are posted online. Anyone in the VA can be contacted by email via their secure messaging system. Medications can be refilled online in minutes, a process that can take days when dealing with private doctors, insurance companies and pharmacies.
At a VA clinic you can get a check-up, blood work, an x-ray, drugs and even lunch all in one place and within an afternoon. In the private sector that could take a week traveling all over town.
Also, VA providers have more experience in dealing with elderly people, and don’t tend to dismiss them as a lost cause not worth what Medicare pays.
Plus, Dad’s diabetes specialist at the VA, Theresa Kreuzkamp, checks in regularly by phone to monitor and update his medications, like nothing we’ve ever experienced in the private sector.
Sure, the VA office waiting times can be long due to overwhelming demand and insufficient funding, but not that much longer than in private care offices. And I’ve had fun visiting with our veterans in the waiting rooms, have met some very interesting people.
More specifically in our family’s case, admittedly just our own anecdotal experience, I found that the VA clinic in Orlando FL possibly saved my Dad’s life, while for-profit doctors failed him. He had been to two pulmonologists and many trips to a primary care doctor, all in the private sector, over the past few years, but not until his VA primary care doctor (Dr. George Toth) became suspicious of his cough was a chest x-ray ordered, followed by CT/Pet scans, a biopsy and MRI in rapid succession all paid for by the VA.
A malignant lung mass was discovered, but at an early enough stage that radiation might do the trick (which the VA is paying for).
Bottom line is that the VA primary care, Dr. Toth, and Orlando’s VA pulmonologist, Dr. Ed Geigel, were absolutely insistent and determined that treatment be sought, even if the stats show no better than 50 percent success, while private sector physicians looked at an 87-old-man and basically looked away.
All I know is that if we get through this with some success it’s only because VA doctors wouldn’t consider doing nothing as an option. And if we don’t I will still always appreciate how hard they tried.
I don’t understand why things went so wrong in the VA system elsewhere, or which is the norm, the solid and efficient care we’ve experienced or the apparent lapses in other places. But I’m guessing that if the news media scrutinized private health care as closely as they have the VA just as many problems might surface, if not more.