A shoutout to the VA

A friend of mine routinely gives thanks for the fact that he became a VA patient during the Trump administration because it’s doing a very good job for him.

A friend of mine, a veteran, had some health problems a long time ago and then, proving that denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, didn’t take care of himself. When I finally chivvied him to sign up with the VA and get his health checked, he had a long backlog of health problems.

I think that, had my friend signed up for the VA during the Obama years, he would be continuing down the road to an early death from problems that could have been treated. However, he signed up in the Trump era and the VA is all over him. He’s already been seen by multiple specialists and had all sorts of interesting tests run on him.

Having grown up on the concierge medicine of Blue Cross during its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, I used to be deeply suspicious of what might be called “warehouse medicine.” However, I became a Kaiser patient 29 years ago and learned that warehouse medicine, done right, is even better than Blue Cross.

Having all the specialties and equipment under one roof can make an enormous difference. Not only can things get done really quickly, healthcare treatment also becomes more holistic, with the system working as one coordinated entity to get the patient better. My mother was a Blue Cross/Anthem patient to the end, and it took one aggressive doctor to coordinate her care. Until then, she was gaming the system to get prescription opioids from all of her doctors.

This interjection about Kaiser was not random. It’s a prelude to saying that what I’ve seen at the VA has been tantamount to what I’ve seen in my happy decades at Kaiser. There is a single coherent system working to help my friend. With his medical records centralized, there’s no overlap and there are no blanks in his care either. The VA isn’t as polished as Kaiser has become, and the waits are longer, but the care is just as good.

Sadly, even with Trump’s efforts, not all VAs are as good as the one my friend uses. Paul Curry wrote a sad post about his local VA, in the heart of Washington, D.C., where he waited six hours for care that he never received.

Incidentally, I understand that the VA is a form of socialized medicine. I’m just saying that the pressure Trump has put on the institution has paid off. The fact that the D.C. outlet is in such bad shape is a reminder that, without market forces to act as a corrective to bad care, you just have to hope that your local bureaucrats have a conscience – and whoever heard of a D.C. bureaucrat with a conscience?