Army Care Centers Demonstrate Failure of Single Payer Health Care

Should there be any doubt as to the outcome of a government-run single payer health care system in the US, one need look no further than a story by Lolita C. Baldor that appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Monday. The headline read: ‘Everybody Wants In’: Too Many Soldiers for Army’s Care Centers. The story line goes this way: In a rush to correct reports of substandard care for wounded soldiers, the Army flung open the doors of new specialized treatment centers so wide that up to half the soldiers currently enrolled do not have injuries serious enough to justify being there.

According to interviews and data provided to Associated Press, the number of patients admitted to the 36 Warrior Transition Units and nine other community-based units jumped from about 5,000 in June 2007, when they began, to a peak of nearly 12,500 in June 2008. The AP learned that just 12 percent of the soldiers in the units had battlefield injuries while thousands of others had minor problems that did not require the complex new network of case managers, nurses and doctors, according to Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek, the director of the Army’s warrior care office.

According to the report, Army leaders are now putting in place stricter screening procedures to stem the flood of patients overwhelming the units — a move that eventually will target some for closure.

Health Plan Innovation Take: The experience that the Army has had as a single payer system is indicative of what would occur on a larger scale if the government were in charge of providing health care. There would no doubt be cycles of rationing and substandard care that would lead to protests that would lead to a free-for-all attitude and incredible costs, and then the cycle will repeat. There has to be a better way.

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