EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 1, 2014

Column: Veterans wait for health care while we wait for accountability

(Continued)

Add it up, and it’s another 15 days off a year -- six weeks becomes nine. What do you think that does to efficiency and productivity? Almost everybody did it, and nobody reported it up the chain of command. It wouldn’t have done any good. Almost all the majors and colonels were doing it, too.

So, the people on both the left and right who said it wouldn’t do any good to fire VA Secretary Eric Shinseki -- who resigned Friday -- have a point. This kind of corruption is so deeply embedded into the culture of government that exchanging one head bureaucrat for another is unlikely to change it.

Anybody who came in and tried to eliminate catastrophic waiting lists would first have to be honest about how much it would cost, given the pay and benefit packages that government employees enjoy, and the cost of health care in general.

The only way health care is “affordable” by today’s standards is for it to be rationed. It’s easy to tell people all the things that are “covered,” but it’s much more difficult to provide those “covered” services to everybody who qualifies.

As a hospital president told me a couple of decades ago, “You can have a health plan that says you can get an MRI every week if you want. But if there are only one or two MRI facilities in your region, do you think that’s going to happen? You’ll wait months.”

Beyond that, anybody who took charge of the VA and demanded accountability and better performance would get hit with so many union grievances that he or she would have little time for anything else.

The other indication that nothing will change once the press moves onto something else is the response of the president. It is the standard, predictable damage control that has been repeated over multiple scandals -- the “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation, eavesdropping on The Associated Press, the IRS holding up applications of conservative groups for tax-exempt status in advance of the 2012 elections, the attack on the U.S embassy in Libya that left four Americans dead including the ambassador, and the botched rollout of Obamacare.

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