Robert A. Miller, a 23-year resident of Brattleboro, served in the Army in North Africa and Italy during World War II and was wounded during the Battle of Monte Cassino in January 1944.
Originally published in The Commons issue #161 (Wednesday, July 18, 2012).
The national debate regarding health care rages on.
The Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — is a small step in the direction of providing affordable health care for all of us. It is by no means “socialized medicine” or single-payer health care.
Yet, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling, many people and most Republicans act as though this legislation is the end of the world as we know it.
On the other hand, people ignore that fact that there is at least one major example of successful single-payer health care in our country.
I refer to the Veterans Administration health-care system. Having been a recipient of VA health care for 13 years, I am in a position to comment on it.
It is long established, has millions of patients, and is paid for by our taxes. It’s old enough, large enough, comprehensive enough and, above all, successful enough to be considered a good example of the effectiveness of such a system for providing health care.
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I realize, of course, that the VA Medical Center at White River Junction is not necessarily representative of the many other centers nationwide. But having been to a couple of installations in Massachusetts, and having heard and read about others around the country, I believe it is safe to generalize.
Without a doubt, the quality of care I have received has been outstanding. It exceeds any medical care I have previously experienced, including the St. Louis Labor Health Institute, the Harvard Community Health Plan (now Harvard Pilgrim Health Care), and Kaiser Permanente in California. (All these examples are health maintenance organizations.)
At the White River Junction VA Medical Center, a level of excellent service extends from clerks to nurses to primary-care physicians to specialists. Whatever medical procedure, prescription drug, special device, or care is deemed appropriate is provided.
Cost to patients varies from nominal to free. (I’m rated 50 percent disabled, due to a combat wound suffered during World War II; hence, all costs — including glasses, hearing aids, medications, and doctor visits of any kind — are provided completely without charge.)
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This comprehensive, excellent medical care is paid for by our tax dollars. This is a good example of a single-payer system in action. Because VA health care is patient-oriented, rather than profit-driven, it is able to focus on quality of care. The result is outstanding!
There is a culture of service and a policy of high standards, resulting in a medical outcome that is second to none. As a patient there, I feel fortunate and grateful, and I wish that I could live to see the day when a system like this is available to everyone in the United States.
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