Veterans know Obamacare because they already have it
12:03 PM 11/25/2013

Pete Hegseth
CEO, Concerned Veterans for America
By now, the slow-motion train wreck that is Obamacare has been well documented, as new revelations about the law become known to the public. From antiquated technology to cost uncertainty to not keeping your doctor, the reality of government-mandated health care is smacking Americans in the face.

But for America’s war veterans, this is all old news. If you’re looking for an even more damning glimpse of Obamacare’s future, ask a military veteran about their experiences with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). You will not find their responses reassuring.
The most common complaint veterans voice about the VA system is the impenetrable bureaucracy, which leads to long wait times for access, especially to rate disability claims. When their benefit claims are stymied by the VA’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy, veterans often recite a mordantly cynical refrain: “Delay, deny, wait till I die.” The dark joke is that for VA, the ideal outcome is to put off dealing with a veteran’s claim until the veteran dies, and the problem resolves itself.

This maze, manifest primarily in an inability to verify eligibility, is the primary reason the VA/Obamacare comparison is so apt. In the 21st century, VA still does 97 percent of its claims process on paper, leading to absurd delays in determining disability ratings. Likewise, oversight reports indicate that for Obamacare “the same portal is used to determine eligibility no matter how the application is submitted (paper, online)…at the end of the day, we’re all stuck in the same queue.” You can put lipstick on a pig, but…
If the VA service model tells us anything about where Obamacare is headed, Americans should be prepared for their health care experience to become even more dysfunctional and bureaucratic. While the Obamacare administrative model differs from VA’s, a national health care system will inevitably take on the same dysfunctional behaviors – leading to paperwork nightmares, wait times, and limited choice. It doesn’t take much of a leap of the imagination to see how Obamacare will lead to a similar bureaucratization and unintended consequences within the civilian health care sector, but on steroids.

It’s inevitable that Obamacare will lead to long wait times in the larger health care system. After all, subsidizing health care for millions while neglecting to increase the number and capacity of health care providers is a classic mismatch of supply and demand. Other nations that are celebrated for their “universal” health care systems, like Canada and Great Britain, have struggled with this quandary for decades – just like the VA.

Recent media reports have highlighted the VA’s mountain of veterans’ claims for disability and compensation benefits awaiting processing. As of this month, that claims inventory was still over 700,000, with 400,000 claims having waited longer than 125 days (or “backlogged”). In some areas of the nation, veterans have waited two years or longer for their disability and compensation claims to be processed.

This dysfunction can literally mean the difference between life and death. A recent review of VA revealed that thousands of veterans wait more than two weeks for a simple mental health appointment; this while 22 veterans commit suicide daily in America. When a veteran is a number, and not a customer, it means waiting for life-saving services like mental health.

Similar stories of exorbitant wait times for other healthcare services are commonplace across VA facilities. Need a hip replacement due to service related injuries? Or an MRI to evaluate a service related disability claim?  Chances are you’ll wait in line for weeks, or even months.

And while disability claims delays have shown improvement in recent months, veterans’ advocacy organizations of all stripes warn that VA has sacrificed accuracy in the effort to reduce the backlog quickly. More errors will only lead to more appeals, shifting the backlog into another arena, and lengthening wait times.
Tags: Concerned Veterans for America, Pete Hegseth, Veterans Affairs

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