A couple of days ago, I noted that right-wingers are finally focusing on problems at the Veterans Administration, but not out of any concern for veterans -- no, the message of the VA scandal is that Obama sucks, according to the right. He's slow to act! The mainstream media is blaming him! The important thing for all Americans isn't to improve health care for veterans, it's to hate Obama!
A related right-wing talking point emerges in this op-ed by right-wing Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Kevin O'Brien. According to O'Brien, this scandal isn't about veterans' health care -- it's about Obamacare:
Where VA has taken veterans, Obamacare is leading all Americans(Good thing there's never any such bureaucratic sclerosis at private insurance companies or health care providers, amirite?)
... [One] conclusion is probably just dawning on those Americans with the wit to see it, because so very few of us have had a brush with a medical system of which government is the sole proprietor: Putting a government bureaucracy in charge of one's health is a gamble likely to end badly.
And yet, if Obamacare stands, that is precisely the gamble each and every American eventually will take.
There is no better predictor of the course of a single-payer medical system in the United States than the VA system, because it is a single-payer system.
If an enrolled patient needs something done, he or she applies to the government-run system for approval; waits until the government-run system is ready to act; accepts the government-run system's solution or, if dissatisfied, appeals to that same government-run system for relief. Because the bureaucracy pays the bill, the bureaucracy makes the decisions -- when or if treatment will be given, and whether or not the patient has been well enough served....
O'Brien is far from the only right-winger pushing the "Yeah, veterans have it bad, but hey, what about that Obamacare?" line. At National Review, John Fund wrote, "No one is suggesting that such scandals are widespread in the general health-care system. But they should serve as a warning sign of what could happen as the pressure to ration, inherent in all government-managed health care, is applied to the general population." Sarah Palin wrote, "until we elect leaders who'll buck the march to socialized medicine known as Obamacare, America’s health care system will go the way of the VA." The editorial page of the New York Post told us that "A look at the VA hospitals would have been more than enough to anticipate the massive problems that keep popping up as we try to implement ObamaCare." Rush Limbaugh said, "Folks, here we have a little microcosm of where we're all headed with Obamacare."
Veterans, schmeterans. Who cares about them? Certainly no one on the right. Right-wingers' eyes are still on the prize, and the prize is Obamacare repeal. (And, in the nearer term, the defeat of Democrats in 2014 and 2016 as the result of Obamacare-driven voter rage.)
In response to all this, Ed Kilgore writes:
... the longer the VA scandal stays in the public eye, the more we will hear arguments the VA should be broken up and its services privatized with federal regulations and subsidies replacing federal bureaucracies -- creating a system much like the one contemplated by Obamacare, as it happens. But at the same time, we’ll be told Obamacare itself is a failure because it involves the government in guar[an]teeing heath care.Yeah, if the right ever stops electioneering long enough to address the VA's problems, the principal recommendation will obviously be "less government!" But I don't think the right will stop at recommending a system like Obamacare. If right-wingers do offer policy proposals for veterans' health care, I think they'll just repurpose their wish list for the health care system in general: vouchers, private insurance that can be purchased across state lines, and so-called tort reform limiting patients' ability to sue. They'll sell that last one as a way to keep "nuisance lawsuits" from harming veterans in need of care. And they'll sell the whole package as a demonstration project for the health care utopia we could all have if Obamacare is repealed.
Look for efforts in this direction sometime in 2015 if the GOP win control of both houses of Congress. And look for it to pass in 2017 if Republicans win the White House.
UPDATE: Oh, I almost missed this headline from The American Spectator's blog:
OBAMA'S VA DEATH PANELS = YOUR FUTURE UNDER OBAMACARE