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New study claims liberal journos perpetuated false image of Veterans Affairs to boost government health care

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Mark Tapscott,Morning Examiner,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Veterans Affairs,Hillary Clinton,Health Care,Veterans,Government Regulation

There were 26 reports between 2000 and 2011 by government investigators and auditors describing the problems now known as the "VA scandal."

Those reports cover the six years of President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office, as well as President George W. Bush's two terms. So why wasn't something done sooner?

Part of the explanation may have been found in a new study released today that is sure to cause great gnashing of teeth and anguished protests in the Leftstream media.

Ideas have consequences

The report is entitled "Intellectuals and the VA: How A Bad Idea and Bad Reporting Contributed to a Health Care Catastrophe" by Dr. David Hogberg of the National Center for Public Policy Research.

Hogberg points to a flurry of commentary and analysis on the left during Bush's second term that hailed the Department of Veterans Affairs as a great success.

"Twenty-six reports in 12 years should have been an alarm bell that something was wrong, but to hear some intellectuals tell it, the VA, despite awful scandals in the past, had transformed into a wonderful system of health care by the 1990s," Hogberg said.

"For example, Dr. Donald Berwick, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama and later a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said:

"'The improvement of the VA health care system in the past decade is one of the most impressive stories of large-scale change — and at the leadership thereof — in modern times.' MSNBC's Timothy Noah claimed the VA health system showed that 'government succeeded while capitalism did not.'"

The Longman book

At the center of the outpouring of praise for VA was Philip Longman's 2007 book, entitled Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Health Care Is Better Than Yours.

Now in its third edition, Longman's book extolled the efforts of a renegade group of VA bureaucrats known as the "Hard Hats" and Ken Kizer, appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton as VA's undersecretary of health.

The Hard Hats had long pushed a new digital medical records system known as VistA. Kizer agreed and made the system the backbone of the VA care system.

And VistA did provide significant benefits, according to Longman, including early flagging of harmful treatment drug combinations, creating a continually updated timeline of treatment, and boosting research on the most effective treatments.

Technology no cure-all

But, as Hogberg describes in detail, the systemic upgrade made possible by VistA did nothing to change VA's entrenched culture of bureaucratic incompetence, inefficiency and corruption.

What VistA did do was provide Democratic presidential aspirants Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and liberal journalists an apparent example of a highly successful government-run health care program. It also provided Congress a convenient rationale to ignore VA's problems, according to Hogberg.

"As Congress debated ObamaCare during 2009 and 2010, the VA's quality medical system was a common theme," Hogberg said, noting, for example, Sen. Jay Rockefeller's claim that "everybody agrees [the VA] is the best health care system in the country."

Among the liberal journalists extolling VA were Paul Glastris in Washington Monthly and Ezra Klein in both the American Prospect and The Washington Post.

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