Letters: False promise of government insurance

Ten months.

That’s how long the Department of Veterans Affairs told me I’d have to wait before they’d process the disability claims I filed this February. I learned this in July. Now they’re telling me the review process won’t be completed until December.

I’ve had various run-ins with VA over the years, but none have been as saddening as this. I fought for my country and spent over six years as a prisoner of war in the “Hanoi Hilton,” Vietnam’s most notorious and abusive prisoner of war camp, in which I suffered more injuries than I can count. For my service, I earned a Silver Star, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Purple Hearts and more.

But it still takes 10 months for VA to process my claims.

I don’t say this to earn sympathy. My 10 months pales in comparison to the stories of many of my veteran brothers and sisters — some of which literally died while waiting on VA. I bring this up to raise a question: If Washington can’t get health care right for veterans like myself, how can Obamacare possibly succeed for the entire nation?

Until recently, politicians praised VA as an example for the rest of the nation’s health care. It seemed to vindicate the idea that a health care system run out of Washington could work.

But the bureaucratic model hasn’t worked for veterans — just look at the list of problems we’re dealing with at the VA. Waiting lists. Rationed care. A workplace culture that puts bonuses ahead of patient well-being. Little to no accountability. Dead veterans.

It’s a shocking example of the problems that afflict a centrally run health care bureaucracy. By centralizing decision-making, not in doctors but in Washington, the VA loses the basic appreciation for the uniqueness of individuals’ medical needs.

Now I fear that Obamacare makes the same fatal mistake. The particulars are different, but the principle is the same.

Whereas the VA only serves 8 million veterans, Obamacare — with its promise of universal health insurance — affects more than 300 million people. It attempts this feat through a bureaucratic system comprising 21 federal agencies. Together, they dictate what health care plans must cover, how much they must cost, how doctors must practice and more.

The lesson here is similar to the VA: Bureaucrats a 1,000 miles away can’t run a health care system that’s tailored to our individual needs.

I should know. I hope our elected officials can explain how Obamacare will succeed where VA has failed. I’d especially like to hear from Sen. Mary Landrieu, who cast the deciding vote for Obamacare. If Washington can’t get it right for the men and women who served in the military, then I doubt politicians will do any better for the entire country.

Murphy Neal Jones

Retired colonel, USAF

Covington