Politics and reality

Published Brownsville Herald 1/30/2012

Like many I watched the president’s State of the Union speech last Tuesday night and as I expected (we are in an election season), it was mostly a political campaign speech that no one believes will ever become fact. However, there was a portion that if the ideal was one that I could believe President Obama could possibly accept, he would have my vote.
He said:
“I’m a Democrat, but I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”
Unfortunately, it is doubtful that any of the current candidates would be able to let the folks make their own decisions and mistakes.
At this time when public adversaries are telling us why we should entrust them with the stewardship of our future, politicians are stirring up the muck in hopes of showing themselves as being not that bad. Even the best have vastly different motivations than we “huddled masses” do, and even if their motivations were more altruistic they would still be influenced by the ideas of what is good for one is good for all. That just ain’t true!
Many brilliant thinkers have expounded on politicians to every end, and suggested why we have the messes we do. Mark Twain said, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”
Comedian P.J. O’Rourke also accurately focused on the issue when he said: “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”
Still we will continue to elect the person who is not as bad as the others!
There are many, many more witnesses who will ask to be heard in the court of public opinion before the election.
What I would like, however, is for government officials to at the least do what they admit they are doing.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is remarkably good at the medical part of its job of helping our creator maintain the body that we screw up with wars and poor maintenance. The surgeons, doctors, pharmacologists and other medical professionals are superb. The mere fact that I am still alive is proof enough.
Locally, the Harlingen VA clinic is quite good and getting better with the addition of its new facility next door and the inclusion of a home for a number of outpatient professions such as dermatology and rheumatology which, as it happens, fit my needs.
My only bugaboo is the time it takes to pick up medications at the facility. From the time the script is issued it can take two hours or more, and that is when you get there when the facility opens its doors at 8 a.m.
In their defense, though, on more than one occasion a manager has approached me to tell me the steps they are taking to resolve the problems.
The other problem is more insidious. They seem unable to accurately maintain any kind of billing and accounting system; perhaps they should contract out to Blue Cross to help them.
As those who follow my column know, I was hospitalized recently at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Houston for some very serious surgery that may or may not have resulted from my military service.
I recently became aware that when the VA got around to billing me, it does not first bill Medicare as is required of other hospitals, though it attributes an amount of the bill to Medicare. The bill is then forwarded to a second insurance company that in my case is a secondary, high-option Blue Cross plan (not a supplementary carrier). Blue Cross correctly identifies that it is not liable for the Medicare amount and pays the rest. It properly sends me notice that I am not liable for any further payment.
The VA then determines that because I do not have a serviceconnected disability and am not financially wanting, it bills me for the Medicare amount.
If any of you have received hospital care you know that we are all required by law to contribute to Medicare, and it is normally required to be the first payer for hospital services. This is the current government health plan!
Since the VA does not or cannot bill another part of the government, it expects me to pay the very large sum that Medicare (that I am required by law to subscribe to) normally would pay.
In my case the medical conditions are such that the VA team are uniquely qualified and experienced in caring for. I can only hope that the VA can determine that when a veteran of wartime service, in the theater of operations, cannot be shown to have been directly fired upon or sprayed with the dangerous chemicals that officials have agreed were used, can still be treated by them at a cost no more than would be charged by a civilian hospital.
Now that our local clinic also provides the follow-up services I require, I might be spared a trip to Houston for follow-up treatment.