ObamaCare and Department of Veterans Affairs Show Government Health Care Rewards Failure

Workers at Massachusetts and Maryland Health Exchanges Received Raises and Cushy Jobs Despite Poor Results

VA Wait Times Scandal Demonstrates that Incompetence in Government Leads to Increased Funding

Washington, D.C. – “It is very difficult to hold government employees accountable for failure,” says Dr. David Hogberg, senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “That’s a key reason why the ObamaCare exchanges have been marred by incompetence and the VA has been dogged by scandal.”

In a new National Policy Analysis paper, Dr. Hogberg shows not only how government fails to penalize incompetence but also how it actually rewards failure. Entitled “Government Health Care Rewards Failure,” the paper examines recent events at the Massachusetts and Maryland ObamaCare exchanges and the VA wait times scandal.

Although the Massachusetts Health Connector had a dysfunctional website and fell far short of enrollment goals, the executive director, Jean Yang, recently gave eleven employees raises of $10,000 or more. While the Maryland Health Connection had similar problems, the man in charge, Maryland’s Secretary of Health Joshua Sharfstein, is leaving for a cushy job as associate dean at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

“That amounts to rewarding failure and if you do that, guess what you are going to get more of in the future?” says Dr. Hogberg. “Down the road expect even more problems to plague ObamaCare exchanges.”

Dr. Hogberg notes that some VA employees, like Secretary Eric Shinseki, did lose their jobs in the wake of the wait times scandal that resulted in 23 veterans dying while waiting for care. But others involved in the scandal are still employed. In addition, most of the bonuses given to VA directors in 2013 have not been rescinded.

“A few heads rolled at the VA because there are some powerful veterans groups that demanded it,” says Dr. Hogberg. “But in most cases of government failure there are no such powerful groups demanding accountability. And even the influence of such groups only goes so far.”

Dr. Hogberg points to the recent decision by Congress to give the VA $17 billion in new spending to supposedly fix the wait times problem, which includes $5 billion to hire new staff and another $1.5 billion to lease space for 27 new VA facilities. Yet the VA has close to $2 billion in underutilized property and spends millions each year maintaining vacant buildings that are in disrepair.

“When Congress spends more money on an agency in the wake of that agency’s glaring incompetence, the message it sends, in effect, is that Congress will reward you for failure,” says Dr. Hogberg.

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