2010 April 17 Saturday
VA Patients Get Fewer Treatments Than Medicare Patients

Are VA patients undertreated or Medicare patients overtreated?

INDIANAPOLIS Patients seen at private facilities reimbursed by Medicare were more than 550 percent more likely to have routine cataract surgery than those who received their care from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a strong indication that the frequency of cataract surgery may be responsive to financial incentives to either or both the medical facility and the physicians who perform the procedure.

These findings from a large eight-year study are reported in the March 2010 issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality.

The authors are uncertain of the cause of the disparity in cataract surgery given that the vast majority of older veterans are enrolled in both Medicare and the VA health system, both government-funded systems.

The VA system is more like the UK National Health System with lots of doctors hired by the government. If people on the political Left who prefer a UK NHS style of medical system got their way the frequency of many treatments would drop. How much would health suffer as a result? The answer would depend on what illness you got, where you happened to live (some government-funded medical centers are more overburdened), and whether you had cash to pay for your own treatments.

Since I expect the US government to hit a severe funding crisis I expect enormous pressures to cut Medicare, Medicaid, VA, and other programs for funding health care. My advice is to save for your own medical treatments in case the need arises to pay for your own treatments in your old age.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2010 April 17 06:02 PM  Economics Health

Black Death said at April 19, 2010 5:14 AM:

"Are VA patients undertreated or Medicare patients overtreated?"

Probably a little of both. Cataracts are primarily a disease of the elderly, and the symptoms progress gradually. The point at which to do surgery is very subjective. So its understandable that, in a system with a fixed level of funding such as the VA, patients will be asked to wait a while before getting their cataracts fixed. That's how the VA works. On the other hand, in a private ophthalmologist's office, the feeling is likely to be - why wait? Grandpa has some blurriness and loss of night vision? It's only going to get worse. So why not fix it now? Grandpa has worked all his life to pay into the Medicare system - shouldn't he get some benefit?

Pickle said at April 19, 2010 1:30 PM:

You are also forgetting that 20% of all social security monies paid now go for people declared disabled. There has been a doubling of the number of people claiming disability despite major reductions in both accidents and injuries and a flat rate of cancer.

What has changed is the definition of disability

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