Intellectuals and Journalists Who Promoted Idea that Veterans Administration Has Best Health Care in U.S. Partially Responsible for Wait-Time Disaster

Politicians, Including President Obama and Secretary Eric Shinseki, Bought Into Ideas of Book “Best Care Anywhere”

This Caused Sense of Complacency Despite 26 Reports Examining Wait-Times from 2000-2011, New Analysis Shows


Washington, D.C. – The Veterans Administration scandal had been brewing for years, yet was ignored by the politicians in charge because they bought into the idea promoted by intellectuals and journalists that the VA health care was the very best, says Dr. David Hogberg, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.

“It’s a cliche, but ideas have consequences,” said Dr. Hogberg. “Led by author Phillip Longman, intellectuals advanced the idea that VA health care was outstanding. That is, in part, responsible for the tragedies caused by VA wait-times, including the deaths of 23 veterans.”

In a new National Policy Analysis paper, Dr. Hogberg traces how Phillip Longman’s book Best Care Anywhere: Why VA Healthcare Is Better Than Yours created an amen chorus of academics, policy wonks and journalists promoting the idea that VA health care is the best in the U.S. Entitled “Intellectuals and the VA: How A Bad Idea and Bad Reporting Contributed to a Health Care Catastrophe,” Dr. Hogberg’s paper further examines how Longman’s idea was absorbed by politicians who were supposed to be overseeing the VA.

The paper also is scheduled to be published by the conservative website Rare Friday.

“President Obama, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, VA Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert Penzel, and certain members of Congress — Longman clearly influenced their thinking on the VA,” said Dr. Hogberg. “If you believe that the VA offers the best care, you are far more likely to overlook problems such as wait-times.”

As the National Policy Analysis paper notes, there were at least 26 reports examining VA wait-times from the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Inspector General from 2000 to 2011. That should have set off alarm bells among the administration and Congress, but oversight was lax to nonexistent.

“None of the reports on wait-times are mentioned in any of the three editions of Longman’s book,” said Dr. Hogberg. “Nor are they mentioned by any of the other intellectuals who promoted his idea such as Ezra Klein, Paul Krugman, Don Berwick or Timothy Noah. By ignoring wait-times while promoting the idea that the VA had the ‘Best Care Anywhere,’ they created an atmosphere of complacency regarding the VA that led to the recent catastrophe.”

David Hogberg, Ph.D., is a health care policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy Research. Previously, Dr. Hogberg was a Washington Correspondent for Investor’s Business Daily, specializing in health care and Medicare. Prior to his employment at IBD, he worked as a policy analyst studying health care and other issues for various think-tanks, including the National Center for Public Policy Research, and for the office of U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry. Dr. Hogberg holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Iowa. He is currently working on a book entitled “Medicare’s Victims: How the U.S. Government’s Largest Health Care System Harms Patients and Impairs Physicians.”

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