Imagine for a moment that you own and operate a restaurant knowing that if you provide spoiled food and rotten service, you will subsequently make more money.  You openly employ strong-arm and intimidation tactics to keep any conscientious employees from revealing what is really going on in the kitchen.  Sound like a restaurant people would want to frequent?

This is the VA hospital system.  High mortality rates, patient neglect, extreme waiting lines, intimidation of wannabe whistleblowers, you have it all.  And a 17 billion dollar bonus from Washington for providing this fine service.  One of the three senators to vote against rewarding this incompetence and malevolence was Oklahoma’s own Dr. Tom Coburn, soon retiring to his plough.  

Awarding more loot to the VA after the revelation of the most recent and deadly fiascos in their hospital system should come as no surprise, though, as any government program that fails only does so because not enough money was allocated in the first place, right?  Coburn, cited a 60% budget increase at the VA in the last few years to argue against the idea that a lack of loot was the trouble.  He basically said the congress was about to give the alcoholic VA another drink.  Not exactly what they need.

What they need is to not exist at all.  Any one who claims to be a fan of single payer health care or government-provided health care should tour or possibly receive their “healthcare” at a VA hospital.  Nothing could open such an individual’s mind to market alternatives any faster.  Compassion and competence doesn’t typically come from the untouchable folks who are paid the same whether they do or don’t provide compassion and competence.  If you think I am kidding, notice carefully the number of times you will see the difficulty firing someone at the VA is referenced when you read about pending reforms.  

The free market destroys businesses and institutions providing the type of “care” rendered at the VA, a concept the Austrian economists refer to as “creative destruction.”  This powerful cleansing mechanism of the market allows for a better allocation of resources to those businesses or institutions that provide the products and services that people actually want.  No such mechanism exists in governmental programs.  The opposite incentive exists, rather, to generate sufficient complaints and misery, a strategy which guarantees even more taxpayer money.  Unfortunately with the disaster of the VA’s version of Obamacare, we have seen this demonstrated once again.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.

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