Friday, April 17, 2015

Fake, False, or Misleading Media Reporting: Dare We Ask Why

Case in Point: This Headline
(Must Read More to Find Out the Real Story)

Backdrop for this Post: I at first blush when I read this headlines thought: “Gosh, the AZ Republic Supports the VA Privatization Move by the Koch's.” Ding… wrong assumption!!

Ding – I would be wrong. However, the headline is very misleading and carefully constructed to force the reader to read the entire article to see what Paul Harvey used to say, “And, now the rest of the story.” (Kinda like if it bleeds, then it leads)…

This post continues that I posted earlier about the Koch brothers sponsoring a move to privatize the VA while waving the red, white, blue like they are the only patriots in the country. 

My focus for this post is long – so bear with me - I think this is a critically important issue. It comes from remarks JEB Bush made while speaking at a Colorado Springs IHOP about this subject, wherein he said, in part: “This is where I think empowering people with the equivalent of a voucher that gives you the same economic benefit of receiving care inside of a clinic or a hospital.” (As noted, Bush previously called for a system change saying he was all in on the voucher thing.

What a coincidence because the Koch brothers are ALSO in on “the voucher thing,” too as we are finding out. But what does it all mean? I mean, what is their purpose?

Back in February, a Koch-funded organization calling themselves Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) released a report calling for extreme policy changes including privatization and tougher enrollment standards that if implemented under their scheme would make one-fifth of future veterans ineligible for care at any VA - oops.

Those radical policy proposals are widely unpopular with veteran groups like the American Legion and Paralyzed Veterans of America because they see and know what Bush doesn’t know: that privatizing their care does nothing to “empower” them – not one bit.

If Mr. Bush is smart and at this stage on this issue it appears he is not so bright, then he would check his facts before cashing in is/potential Koch check. JEB Bush it appears has fallen in line with no only the Kochs on this but right along side Rubio, Rand Paul, and a ton of many other Republicans.

Some of the proposed “reforms /changes are here from this fine article from USA TODAY that I have used for this posting. It is quite long but very detailed discussing the reform measure, that if enacted would affect some 22 million Veterans dramatically and especially about 8.5 million already enrolled with the VA for their care. Some of the impact:

•  Health care should be re-prioritized to focus on veterans with service-connected disabilities and specialized needs. Patients already in the VA medical system would retain their access and eligibility while gaining new options.  

•  All enrolled veterans would be able to continue using VA health facilities or shift to subsidized care through private providers. The government would pay a percentage of medical costs via insurance programs, with coverage levels determined by each veteran's eligibility status. (The VA already provides benefits based on tiered eligibility calculations.

•  Future veterans and those not already enrolled in VA health care would be required to enter a new VA insurance system with varying levels of coverage, and NOT all would qualify for subsidies.

•  Nearly one-fifth of future veterans — those in the lowest VA benefit levels (Priorities 7 and 8) would not be eligible under the new system at all.  

•  About 1.6 million patients now are rated in those two categories, but their benefits would be grandfathered. 

• The Veterans Health Administration, with 275,000 employees, would be divided. Half of it would morph into a non-profit government corporation that provides medical care in competition with private providers. The other half would oversee payments, or insurance coverage, for medical care on behalf of veterans using non-VA services.

By way of background, the VA today has the VA has 150 hospitals nationwide and about 820 clinics. The reform package also calls for the closure of inefficient medical centers and other facilities, similar to the shutdown of military installations under the controversial Base Realignment and Closure Act of 1990.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald could not attend the summit, but he issued a statement opposing the proposal, saying: “Unfortunately, many of today's proposals advocate 'contracting out' a sacred mission to care for those who have borne the battle *Lincoln’s words. There is an important role for outside care in the veteran health model to supplement VA's own care, but that role should not diminish or obscure the importance of VA's health care system. Reforming VA health care cannot be achieved by dismantling it and preventing veterans from receiving the specialized care and services that can only be provided by VA.”

Noteworthy is what Sen. John McCain described the task force report as “pretty radical stuff” but said he endorses the basic tenets. He rejected Secretary McDonald's criticism, saying in part: “What he is doing is binding the veterans only to VA health care and that is wrong (because) . bureaucratically, they are trying to circumvent the intent of the law.”

(Note: During a Q&A session, McCain was interrupted by a heckler who yelled, “Hey, John, how many lives could you have saved in Phoenix if ...?” – then McCain interrupted the man, which the CVA later identified as an Arizona resident, calling him a “jerk and declaring he would match his service for veterans to anyone else.” (So, Vets are jerks for asking questions.) What a deal.

Dr. Bill Frist (TN), the former GOP Senate majority leader and now a co-chair of the task force, said the VA has become an outdated organization that evolved by reacting to past problems rather than as a result of planning. He envisions the summit proposals as a new system that focuses on patient needs with accountability, flexibility, efficiency and cost controls saying in part: “Incremental change simply will not fix the system. We've got to change. ... It's all about modernization.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told summit participants the VA “is simply buckling under the weight of its own bureaucracy, and that repairing the medical system for America's veterans is a measure of our honor as a society because we have an obligation to serve them with the same devotion they have served us – we owe it to them, and this system simply cannot provide it.”

The American Legion made clear in a statement Thursday that it would not back the plan, saying it opposes privatization and vouchers as a long-term solution. Additionally, no members of Congress have yet to sign up as sponsor of any reform bill thus far.

It is not immediately clear whether such a dramatic overhaul stands any chance of congressional passage, let alone endorsement from President Obama.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has endorsed the basic tenets advocated by the task force, saying: “Let's not be afraid to take the traditions of the past — why we created it — and apply them to a changing future.”

A backlash from some Veteran organizations, some lawmakers, some federal employee unions, and other groups is expected. They all basically argue that the proposed “Vets Care Choice Program” (VCCP, I guess it would be called) program would: (1) explode costs, (2) reduce benefits for some veterans, (3) privatize a system that the government should run and in fact since George Washington was CINC and said we must take care of our wounded soldiers, and (4) could also have coverage options that would bewilder elderly veterans and those with brain injuries, and PTSD.

The Task Force also included: former Rep. Jim Marshall, a Georgia Democrat and Purple Heart recipient, who had served as one of four co-chairmen in developing Fixing Veterans Health Care, then Frist, a lung surgeon; Dr. Michael Kussman, former VA under secretary for health; Avik Roy, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute's Center for Medical Progress (and BTW: a former Romney adviser); and  Sam Foote, the Phoenix veterans hospital physician who exposed health care failings before his retirement last year. 

The panel also stressed that the government needs to address dramatic declines projected in the veteran population — falling from 24 million in 2006 to an estimated 16 million by 2029.

Also, the report predicts that combined reforms would be revenue-neutral, (huge laugh here) though authors acknowledged the calculation is murky because the Veterans Health Administration failed to provide critical data on expenditures, or comparative costs for private and VA medical care.

The issue of VA shutdowns and closures: Very likely will generate local opposition and political fallout, but the report said closures would save money and eliminate inefficiencies, allowing for improved health care overall (odd: GOP-run things like this always worry about costs – except when they drag us into the next war).

About focus on cost: “How much is our freedoms worth?”

What has Congress done since the flap erupted? They passed the bipartisan Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act in 2014, which was signed into law. It set aside $16.3 billion to hire more caregivers and allow stonewalled patients to obtain private care, which is a good idea if the local VA are full or not able to offer the treatment – that is common sense reform – not total abandonment and handover to some Wall Street broker or Koch-supported entity.

However, some still say that piecemeal changes will not change the VA – I say: Why not – make the changes needed and hands off thing that work. 

GOP Rep. and Chairman Jeff Miller of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee (R-FL) said amid “the biggest scandal in VA history the department is struggling to change under congressional oversight, and if we don't take the opportunity to fix this very broken health care system today, then we may never get the opportunity again.” (That is scare tactics; not leadership, Mr. Miller).

Miller went on to devote much of his address to the VA's failure to fire any employees to date in connection with the crisis over delayed care and falsified appointment data, adding: “People are still asking the question: 'Where is the accountability?'” (He is right, but are firing needed)?

The report's summary said medical efficiency and care diminished even as the VA budget grew by $91 billion from 2006 to 2014, and as staffing increased by more than 100,000 despite a declining population of U.S. veterans.

And, so it begins. Big money at work for what? The betterment of the public’s best interests, or their bottom line? The answer I believe is self-evident.

1 comment:

Danny M. Francis said...

Test post to see if this works or not.