What it’s Like to be On Government Health Care

by Robin W. O’Bannon, Technical Sergeant (retired), U.S. Air Force
Megan District Precinct Committeeman, LD12.

Among many hats and labels I have been given including “Black Conservative,” 100% disabled veteran is one of the more weighty ones.  Due to some serious illnesses from my service during the Gulf War in Southwest Asia, I have had to depend heavily on treatment through the healthcare arm of the Veterans Administration (VA).

Over the years you may have heard stories about the care American veterans receive from the VA. We are regularly told by government how much our military service is appreciated, yet we must deal with serious health issues using a system that is painfully slow, inefficient, inconsistent, and unable to effectively tend to the needs of its patients.

Why should Veterans Healthcare be of any concern to you?

Some time ago, I had the opportunity to speak with Governor Mitt Romney’s Healthcare Advisor, Mr. Matthew Hoffman, about the healthcare reform measures to be instituted in 2014 known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or, as it is commonly known, “Obamacare.”

Few have the energy, patience, and time to read two thousand pages of legislation to understand the full extent of the PPACA, so my question to Mr. Hoffman was a simple one: “Is Obamacare analogous to the VA healthcare system?” His answer, “It’s worse. It is VA healthcare on steroids.”

Please allow me to provide some insight into what government run health care will mean to you, the patient:

· Doctors are unable to offer the effective and reasonable treatment they would normally recommend for chronic conditions. And so, these conditions either don’t improve or worsen because the treatment “options” used to be available and are no longer, or they never were, or never will be, available.

· You must push hard to see a specialist, and if the request is granted, you’ll have to wait inordinate amounts of time for an appointment.

· You may have a serious medical need, and be scheduled and admitted to the hospital, only to be sent home, sometimes repeatedly, because of limited resources. This can go on indefinitely.

· You may have to sit in a waiting room for a scheduled appointment, only to be turned away, because of limited resources. This, too, can happen repeatedly.

· Your treatment may be postponed for weeks, months, even years because of lack of available providers or cancellations by the provider that are difficult if not impossible to reschedule. As a result, issues considered routine become extremely serious, even life threatening.

· You may suddenly be denied prescription medications that have previously been available to you, because non-medical professionals have deemed them “luxury” drugs.

When dealing with government run healthcare, there is no competition, so you are stuck with whatever care you receive. Over time, providers and staff come to understand that patients have no place else to go, and, while there are some who will always be hard workers, the majority exhibit everything from rudeness, burnout, and apathy to downright incompetence.

You will become familiar with the three words that describe this overtaxed system: Backlog, backlog, backlog.

Over the years, VA has become adept at presenting itself as “not the horrible VA of yesteryear” and rightfully so. It has made vast improvements since the days of the Korean War, World War II, and Vietnam. The stark contrast between the deplorable, filthy hospital conditions then and the pristine images now is noteworthy. It is also the law.

VA has incorporated technology, state of the art facilities and equipment, and even socially lauded programs into its image. Marketing to the public has been streamlined. You see glass buildings, shiny brochures and folders, websites, press releases, and the like.

However, all the opulence, bells, and whistles have no effect on the level of care. It’s like granddad used to say: “Even if you put lipstick and a fancy dress on a pig…it’s still a pig.” I am not trying to take away from the great, true stories that come from the way VA has handled multiple, varied patient needs. But these stories are not the rule, they are the exception.

In my experiences with VA, I have encountered good people who have tried to make an oasis for veterans in the midst of an unwieldy and antiquated VA infrastructure and culture. But good intentions don’t create real and lasting change. Commitment to real and lasting change does.

After writing 60+ letters to congressmen, senators, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the VA Inspector General, and President Obama himself, there are a lot of good intentions…but no change.

Veterans deserve better, and so do all Americans. Also, keep in mind that, once something has been cemented into place, it is a herculean task to unseat it. So let’s not let it get that far.

Yes, healthcare needs to be reformed. Something must be done. But not through a government run health care system, and not by bureaucrats who are not medically qualified to make decisions on how treatment is carried out. It isn’t logical to trade one product for a more inferior one and call it “progress” or even a “step in the right direction.”

You may not have any pressing medical issues now, but you can’t predict the future.

Except in this case. The future of medicine in this country under Obamacare is predictable, because we know what is happening in VA and in government run healthcare facilities all over the nation.