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V.A. Fails to Diagnose and Treat Vets to Save Money: Implications for Health Care Reform?

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Message Mary Birmingham
V.A. Fails to Diagnose and Treat Vets to Save Money: Implications for Health Care Reform
No matter what side of health care reform you are on, none of us would like our physician to NOT tell us about a treatable condition, just to save the government money.
V.A. physicians have been ordered not to diagnose or treat "low priority" veterans for many conditions. I am all for single payer health care, but we should be honest. The V.A., like private health care is a socially stratified system. All Veterans do not all get the same care. Veterans who have managed to get a service connected designation (many who should get this classification do not), retired officers and others who have been anointed with the classification of deserving get the medical they need. Some veterans get no care at all. Other veterans, who qualify for care, but are considered, "low priority", are not getting such good care. V.A. physicians from General practitioners to E.R. are not allowed to treat these "low priority" vets for many conditions. Many of you will say, "They have not earned that medical care." Others will recognize that health care should not be something you have to earn. Either way, we should all agree that ALL veterans who are lead to believe they are getting their health care from the V.A., who have been assigned primary care physicians, should be diagnosed and informed of treatable conditions by their physician. If the V.A. does not want to treat them, they should not provide act like they are providing them with health care, then they can check out other options, including join their comrades in a struggle to gain full access to health care.
Unequal access is not the only problem with V.A. health care, nor the only problem with private socially stratified health care. Often when veterans do get care, it is substandard, violent, and even abusive. The V.A. has a long history of violating patient informed consent for the sake of education and research. Veterans are given harmful exams and treatment, even surgeries they do not need for the sake of training medical students. Women are particularly vulnerable to abuse as their numbers are small; they are literally ganged up on once sedated so large numbers of students can practice intimate exams and procedures on the non-informed, non-consenting patient. Private health care has a very long history of systematically violating patients' informed consent, battery of sedated patients, and other forms of patent abuse. If a patient has the financial means to file a lawsuit, they are treated one way; if not, they are treated another. There is little incentive to protect patients whose ability to respond to abuse is limited, an abundance of opportunity, and increasing profits to be made from patient abuse. In fact there is little incentive to simply protect patients from easily avoidable infections. With all the signs about hand washing most of us should have a clue that getting staff to wash their hands has been a bit of a problem. It seems it may be the same for equipment. Since 1998, the V.A. has known about and failed to solve the problem dirty colonoscopy gear being used on patients. Their own inspections indicate that over half of their facilities are not properly cleaning or maintaining colonoscopy gear, patients have been infected with STDs, and the V.A. has simply said, well there is "no proof they were infected from the colonoscopy," and that infection would be unlikely, even as they admit that cleaning such gear is sensitive and any breakdown in the process can risk patient infection.
Finally, informed consent and patient autonomy, I.e. informed consent reform, must be part of health care legislation. In a system where patients are assaulted by lines of students 8-12 long waiting for their turn to practice pelvic, breast, and rectal exams on non-consenting sedated patients waiting surgery or colonoscopies, in a system where the patient has no right to refuse an exam or procedure, where hospital staff calls the police to ask if they want them to perform a rape exam by force, in a system where patients are manipulated into harmful procedures that will not improve their health, we must have more than simple access.
The bottom line is, the next time you are being sold this "Public Option" health care reform, remember the following.
1. This is not left wing reform. Public Option is a windfall to insurance companies. It will increase health care costs and taxes, may not cover more people, is incomprehensible, and is written by corporate lobbyists, and while currently insurance companies serve as death panels, we do not need the government to do the same.
2. While it makes no sense to subject our health and our lives, to greedy physicians, insurance executives, hospitals, imaging companies, drug and device manufactures, it also makes no sense to subject our health care to the whims of government. A government that has proven not to have our interest in mind. A system that funds health care in one administration and then cuts funding in the next.
3. We need to take health care out of the hands of both for-profit organizations and politicians.
1. We start by rejecting the Public Option. Call your representatives and demand that they vote against Public Option and start over from scratch, this time not allowing lobbyists to write the legislation, limit the legislation to fewer than 50 pages, and submit all legislative proposals to the public for referendum vote of confidence or no confidence.
2. Do not listen to the corporate press, who share economic interests with the corporate health industry. Do your own research on ALL proposed legislation, including those not reported on by the press.
3. Think harder. Do not be lazy. Think! If medical care is socially stratified, that is we do not all get the same care and some of us get no care at all, if the cost of medical care is unregulated such that more and more of us get no care at all, and the sicker we get, the more we need care and the less we can afford that care, if good medical care is tied to insurance, and affordable insurance to employment, what does that mean for me and my loved ones? What if a member of my family gets very sick and stays sick for a long time? What if there is an accident? What if I am disabled and can no longer work? What if my insurance company decides to drop my coverage? Will I be put in the position where a family member or I will not get the care we need. If I have to resort to a "Public Option", will a physician simply not tell me of a condition that should be treated?
What if health care was universal not only in the sense of access, but quality; that is, what if we all, including physicians, politicians, and corporate C.E.O.s got the SAME care, in terms of quality, cost, and access? What difference would that make in a public health care system?
What if we had such a universal system in conjunction with health care as a human right and informed consent legislation?
It is up to us to decide. Ultimately, it is up to us. We will get the kind of medical care we settle for; so do not settle. Call your representatives today and tell them "no compromise" on health care reform. Scrap "Public Option" and start over NOW.


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Just one citizen struggling to regain American Democracy. I am a bit of a intellectual jack of all trades master of none. I have studied, economics, sociology, philosophy, womens studies, and political science at a graduate level.
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