The Veterans Administration Model

I discovered several months ago that I was eligible for medical services via the Veterans Administration. Till then I had assumed VA benefits were limited to those who had retired from the military or had service connected medical issues. I still don’t know what makes me eligible, other than age. I also remain unconvinced  I should be eligible.

Regardless, here’s what I’ve learned. The VA is very efficient. I have a primary care physician in Wilmington who I am required to visit annually to update my medical status. The doctor and staff at the clinic are extremely competent and friendly and since there is no profit motive I assume the cost of operation are kept to a minimum.

My reason for seeking VA care was to acquire a hearing evaluation and hearing aids if needed. I was referred to a VA operated audiology clinic in Chillicothe and promptly tested and prescribed a set of aids. Once again, the staff was professional, competent, and friendly.

Several weeks later I returned to the Chillicothe clinic to have pick up my hearing aids and have them adjusted to fit my hearing requirements. I was told that the VA would supply me with batteries and that in a few days I would receive a package containing several months supply. Sure enough, within a week a box came from a VA logistics center in Colorado and containing the needed supplies. Enclosed was an order form for acquiring additional supplies in the future.

Before the Affordable Care Act was passed into law I read a book about healthcare systems in other nations. Included in this book was a list of the most efficient healthcare systems and among it was America’s Veterans Administration. The VA made the list simply because it was non-profit, provided most services in-house, and because of its size, able to negotiate extremely good prices on whatever it purchased, including hearing aids and batteries.

The same things have often been said about many aspects of the Medicare system although it is not as efficient as the VA because it relies completely on for profit providers  and is far more subject to abuse and fraud.

I suppose I have at least two reasons for writing this piece. First to show that government can in fact do things correctly and efficiently. Government does not, and often is not, have to be the problem, it can and often is, the solution. Secondly, the care I’ve received from the VA, and what I’ve heard about from other veterans, has been excellent. To me it just emphasizes the need to get away from our current healthcare system and move more towards a single-payer, universal system modeled on what the VA is providing millions of the nation’s vets.

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