When did the V.A. become such a far-right target?

WHEN DID THE V.A. BECOME SUCH A FAR-RIGHT TARGET?…. During a debate between Nevada’s U.S. Senate candidates this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) noted that Sharron Angle has raised the specter of privatizing the Veterans’ Administration.

Rush Limbaugh loves the idea, and has no idea why Reid would consider that criticism.

“What is wrong with privatizing the VA? What’s wrong with privatizing? Somebody tell me where it’s working!”

This is the second time I’ve heard this from the far-right recently. Just a couple of weeks ago, extremist Senate candidate Ken Buck (R) of Colorado made a similar case:

“Would a Veterans Administration hospital that is run by the private sector be better run then by the public sector? In my view, yes.”

I’m not sure why the right decided to launch this anti-VA nonsense, but so long as conservatives are pushing this line, it’s worth setting the record straight.

For the Washington Monthly, this has been a long-time area of interest. In 2005, we published a Philip Longman piece on V.A. hospitals called, “The Best Care Anywhere.”

As Longman explained at the time, “Who do you think receives higher-quality health care. Medicare patients who are free to pick their own doctors and specialists? Or aging veterans stuck in those presumably filthy VA hospitals with their antiquated equipment, uncaring administrators, and incompetent staff? An answer came in 2003, when the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study that compared veterans health facilities on 11 measures of quality with fee-for-service Medicare. On all 11 measures, the quality of care in veterans facilities proved to be ‘significantly better.’ … The Annals of Internal Medicine recently published a study that compared veterans health facilities with commercial managed-care systems in their treatment of diabetes patients. In seven out of seven measures of quality, the VA provided better care.”

Yes, the taxpayer-financed, government-run VA hospitals are some of the finest medical facilities in the country. Limbaugh and Buck think they’d be better off being privatized, but that’s largely because they’re popping off on a subject they don’t understand.