Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have served the country. However, it is also important to remember the veterans who currently living and address their needs. The issue receiving the most press is the long VA wait times. I discuss the issue below.
According to Vox.com, the VA rules aim to “ensure patients are seen in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days. If it takes longer than 90 days to schedule a patient due to overcapacity, waiting veterans are supposed to be entered into an electronic wait list that tracks patients and makes sure their appointments are prioritized.”
Rules are not enough. Veterans are waiting longer than they should as veterans age and provider supply is not increased proportionally. However, long waiting times are not unique to the VA. In fact, “average private-sector wait time to be 18.5 days – two and a half days less than at the VA.” In some states, the wait is even longer. In Massachusetts,”the average time to see a family medicine physician at 39 days…and the average wait time to see an internal medicine physician at 50 days.” Thus, providing health insurance is not enough; the insurance must cover timely, high-quality care.
The true outrage of the VA scandal is they dishonesty of the VA facility in Phoenix regarding the true waiting times for patients. CNN reports:
At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.
The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.
As Obamacare expands care to more individuals, let’s hold up the VA as an example. Expanding insurance coverage is not enough. Patients need to be able to access care in a timely manner as well. Thus, even if you are not a veteran or are not related to one, the issue of access to care is one that we should all take seriously in the future.