To the editors:
I was surprised to see the June 23 Reader cover story on the Veterans Administration's hospitals and the Hot Type piece on the AMA and "universal health care" in the same issue. Michael Miner takes a strident, clearly pro-free health care tone, but he would do well to read the cover story on our existing free health care system. A system which is tied up in politics and bureaucracy and which, as the story's author Jeffrey Felshman points out, is creating angry militants. For eight years I have argued publicly and privately that before we start an ill-conceived, gigantic new government bureaucracy, show me that you can run and reform the present one. I have been met with the same stony silence that greeted vets when they tried to find out about Agent Orange during the Carter administration.
That Miner does point out that the AMA statement is fuzzy on the how-tos of universal health care is beside the point. I have yet to read one proposal from anyone from Hillary Clinton to the far left that was clear on anything but their desire. Too bad they don't have the same desire to fix the VA.
What happens to the men and women who were sent into atomic-bomb test sites sometimes mere hours after the test? The vets who handled Agent Orange? The men and women having health problems since the gulf war? When the VA turns away, who rushes in?
I would also like to point out that the collapse of the VA hospitals is happening on the watch of the single biggest proponent of universal health care, President Clinton. This contradiction does not surprise me.
I do have an idea. It is not permanent. It will not create a new unmovable, unchangeable government bureaucracy. But it just may give everyone a chance to come up with something better. Remember when the three most expensive monopolies were the telephone company, lawyers, and the medical system? What did lawyers charge for an uncontested divorce in 1975 compared to now? After they are free to advertise, to compete for business, how are prices different for at least two of those monopolies? I bet they have become far more innovative, and cheaper. Let's just try the free market. Let hospitals and doctors compete and get rid of the HMOs. Maybe capitalism isn't the perfect solution, but it could make the system more user friendly until a better way could be found--and first shown to work at the VA hospitals.
Until I hear of that better way, I have to oppose universal health care. If the government plays politics with the health of veterans, why wouldn't it do the same to all of us? How do we know it hasn't already?