POTUS says: “When veterans do get into the system, they get great healthcare” … oh, really?

When Obama finally commented on the VA scandal, he gave the usual “outraged, will investigate and hold accountable” … then asserted that “when veterans do get into the system, they get great healthcare”.

No questions from the media.  Not much follow-up.

Must be true since the President said it, right?

Of course, my BS detector started screeching.

Fortunately, the WSJ started to dig and found “significantly higher rates of mortality and dangerous infections at some VA hospitals compared with others” … and compared to private hospitals.

For example, the Boston area VA hospital is rated 5-stars … the embattled Phoenix VA draws a single star.



The WSJ concluded that the Phoenix VA doesn’t appear to be an outlier.   

Here’s where things get interesting …


The WSJ’s finding was based on a small sample from an internal VA data base called Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning, or SAIL.

SAIL ranks and scores more than 100 VA hospitals according to a variety of metrics, including infection and mortality rates.

But – and it’s a big but – the VA doesn’t make the SAIL data public.

Hmmm.  Wonder why that is?

Why not trumpet the success of a government run hospital network.

That set me to digging …

First,  let’s look at the public’s perceptions of Veterans’ healthcare.

According to a recent FoxNews poll, less than 1 in 4 people rate Veterans’ healthcare as good or excellent.

Almost 40% rate it as poor.

pol - vets quality of health care

Why the perceptions?

Well, they’re probably largely driven by recent news stories … but hard data seems to support the perceptions.

The Joint Commission  —  an independent hospital rating group – reports that only 13% of the 152 accredited VA medical centers have been recognized as Top Performers when compared to other VA hospitals and the broader population of privately run hospitals – for profit and not-for-profit.

Digging a little deeper, I found a hospital rating site called “Find the Best”.

A couple of interesting stats …

Patients rate their VA hospitals on a 10 point scale —  with a 10 being the best.

On average, across the 152 VA hospitals,  2 out of 3 patients give their hospital a “top box” rating of 9 or 10.

Said differently 1/3 of patients aren’t “very or completely satisfied” with their hospitals.



Part of the reason for the less than stellar ratings is doctor coverage.

On average, VA hospitals have 2.5 doctors per annual “unique” patients.

Not sure how that compares to privately run hospitals, but I’m betting it’s on the low side … the very low side.



 Stay tuned … my curiosity is aroused.


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