Privatization and Underfunded Budgets Hurt Walter Reed

The Register’s editorial this morning tried to minimize the argument that privatization of services at Walter Reed amounted to small change and that once a contractor wins the business, there is still no incentive to offer better service.  VIPs at Walter Reed always got great care.  Wounded soldiers in building 18, not so much.  So if you’re rich or important, you will get the care you can afford. 

When the Army gave the contract to IAP Worldwide Services to handle facilities management, there was a massive drop in the number of qualified professionals leaving facilities management at Walter Reed.  IAP is now doing the work of 300 people with just 50.  And the facilities management people are responsible for making sure the rooms are painted, free of mold, and not run down. The results from IAP and privatized facilities management speak for itself.

Like Steven Greenhut, I too worked for government contractors, but my experience was a little different.  I worked for a provider of high tech communications products used by the military.  Straying from the contract or failure to meet the specifications set forth by the requirements of the technology meant your contract was cancelled. Once cancelled, difficult to impossible to revive even with another sector of the government.  That’s incentive to do the job.

Besides the poorly executed privatized services, the Bush administration has severely underfunded the VA hospitals for years.  High costs associated with the war in Iraq, a lack of adequate planning for the care of large numbers of wounded soldiers, and consistent ongoing budget cuts have made the VA hospitals a travesty to helping wounded men and women who have served this country.  How is that for supporting the troops?

Calling this “Soviet” styled healthcare is a trigger label effectively used in OC political circles for years as a scare tactic and is designed to provoke a response rather than inform.  No one here is advocating any Soviet-styled anything.  But enough of the “I’m rubber and you’re glue” schoolyard taunts best left to Ann Coulter.

Privatization is something conservatives call for on a regular basis. I think they do so because it means they get to steer huge government contracts to their cronies. If service is shoddy and their caught, a fine might be charged (but well below the income earned). And with IAP, the people charged with getting ice to New Orleans, bad peformance in the Crescent City was no obstacle to getting the business at Walter Reed.  No one is going to jail for Walter Reed either.

This from BayouBuzz:
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman laid the blame at the doorstep of the Bush administration. “Two months before the invasion of Iraq, the [Veterans Health Administration] introduced severe new restrictions on who is entitled to enroll in its health care system,” wrote Mr Krugman. “All this red tape was created not by the inherent inefficiency of government bureaucracy, but by the Bush administration’s penny-pinching.” He added that, during the Clinton administration, the VHA had become “a shining example of how good leadership can revitalize a troubled government program”.

Mr Krugman compared the Bush administration’s performance in veterans health care with its bungled response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans – which he said also reflected the ideological drive to privatize critical functions of government.

“One of the factors degrading FEMA’s effectiveness was the Bush administration’s relentless push to outsource and privatize disaster management, which demoralized government employees and drove away many of the agency’s most experienced professionals.”House Democrats also charge that privatization over the past five years has caused standards to deteriorate in veterans health care. They drew parallels to the waste, fraud and abuse uncovered in recent hearings on military contracts in Iraq.

“We’ve contracted out so much in this war,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who chairs the House oversight committee. “We are using mercenaries instead of soldiers, we contracted out [veterans health care] as well … in Iraq, we’re overpaying for contracting; here we’re under-serving our soldiers.”

Can we expect this with universal healthcare?  Well, look at how much we spend in Iraq weekly.  We could easily fund adequate healthcare choices for all Americans.   We are continually told we have the best healthcare system in the world; now if only everyone could afford it.

Can we expect this with universal healthcare?  And is Walter Reed a preview of universal health care? It isn’t. Someone is trying to scare you and its not even Halloween.

  3 comments for “Privatization and Underfunded Budgets Hurt Walter Reed

  1. RHackett
    March 8, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    You gotta feel sorry for little Stevie on this one. He was so desperate to prove the emerging Walter Reed scandal was an example of socialized medicine. You burst his little bubble when you showed the scandalous conditions were actually the result of a profit driven efficient privatized function.

    His defense in the ensuing posts on the Orange Punch blog only reinforce his intellectual laziness.

    I sort of see him as one of those Japanese soldiers left on the islands in the Pacific not realizing the war had long since been over.

  2. March 9, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Using the Walter Reed scandal as a way to argue about privatization vs. socialization misses the point. It isn’t about how the money was spent so much as there wasn’t enough budgeted to begin with.

    I think this is yet another case of the Bush administration deceiving itself over how much war costs, in more ways than one.


  3. Dan Chmielewski
    March 9, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    The combination of privatization and severe underfunding is precisely my point.

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