Dan Kennedy

On Sunday’s “Face The Nation” on CBS, Howard Dean, doctor, former Vermont Governor, former head of the DNC, stated that the Veterans Administration’s health care system is, in fact, a socialist system. Yes, he said that. And he praised it as the best, most effective health care provider in all the world.

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The show’s host didn’t comment on this characterization of the VA as socialist, and Dean went on to point to Medicare as a single payer system, and praised it as well. This was his argument for the public option, and the certain path to government run health care as only option.

I have a friend currently dealing with the VA. He finds Dean’s assertion that it is the best health care provider laughable – except to him personally at the moment, it’s not very funny. He has been told by his doctor he is in serious and urgent need of as yet uncertain heart disease treatment – perhaps catheterization, perhaps surgery, maybe a stent. And he is waiting two, maybe three weeks for the required stress test and possibly other tests. To be followed by at least a week waiting for results and follow-up appointment.

The VA facility he was sent to is clearly over-burdened, under-staffed, un-clean and S-L-O-W. He’ll arrive for a 9:00 A.M. appointment, but be parked there for 4 hours, waiting.

It’s a look at the future.

And I wonder: has Dean conveniently forgotten the scandal over the disgraceful condition of VA facilities right there in Washington D.C., exposed by the media?  Perhaps he hasn’t noticed that privately funded, charitable organizations are needed to provide care and rehabilitative therapy and equipment for wounded veterans. Or maybe he’s unaware of the too-many veterans who need advocates and attorneys to fight for them, to get the care they need, and most certainly have earned. 

Dean may be right in calling it socialist, as surprising the admission may be. But praising it as the best? Well, I certainly think I’m getting better care from my private physicians, paid in part by my private insurance, than my friend is from the VA. Were I hosting “Face the Nation,” I think I’d have asked if Dean is getting his health care from the VA. Or if he’s ever even been in a VA facility. 

What of Dean’s holding up Medicare as a poster-boy of single-payer systems? Has he missed President Obama’s assertion that Medicare is riddled with hundreds of billions of dollars of waste and fraud, and that his gigantic new health care scheme will pay for itself by eliminating that waste and fraud?

Every time Obama drags that old chestnut out, the media should be in unanimous chorus, screaming about this disgrace, demanding investigations and prosecutions now – not later, after a bigger version of the same beast is birthed.

Maybe Dean has missed the CBO’s analysis of Medicare as functionally bankrupt, a financial corpse waiting for official time of death. Maybe he should carefully examine how the House or Senate health care reform bills promise to gut that corpse, cut benefits, impose new limitations on care imposed by new boards, bureaucracies and czars. If Dean means to suggest that the new health care reform will be Medicare magnified and multiplied, there can be only one result: bankruptcy of the United States.

Dr. Dean is ridiculous. Too bad he went unchallenged.


Dan Kennedy

Dan Kennedy is a serial entrepreneur and contributor to the Business & Media Institute.