The burgeoning scandal within the VA medical system documented in horror stories from neglected veterans and disturbing report from the inspector general, have provided fodder for the GOP eager draw comparisons to the Affordable Care Act they want to repeal.
“I’ve already made the comparison several times,” Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told the Washington Examiner.
Unlike the VA's systems of government-run hospitals and clinics, the 2010 health care law relies on private providers. But Republican critics say that they show the perils of government involvement in health care.
“The analogy is not specifically that the VA system is the same as Obamacare and what happened in the VA is going to happen in Obamacare,” Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said. “The analogy is the problem with government running almost anything. And that’s a fair analogy.”
Republican lawmakers believe the VA’s long wait times, evidence of hidden waiting lists and reports of veterans dying while they wait for care, can be used to warn against what could happen under Obamacare.
“While it’s not a single-payer system, it’s much bigger and will be subject to many more problems,” Fleming said.
Conservative pundits have for days been drawing a comparison between mismanaged VA health care and Obamacare.
Ben Carson, a former neurosurgeon, popular conservative speaker and Fox News contributor, called the VA scandal “a gift from God to show us what happens when you take layers and layers of bureaucracy and place them between the patients and the health care provider.”
Conservative talk show radio host Rush Limbaugh said the public needed to be warned that the VA mess is “a microcosm of what Obamacare is gonna be if it's fully implemented.”
Democrats scoff at the comparison, even as many have been struggling with whether to ignore the health care law or promote it on the campaign trail. Recent polls show Obamacare remains unpopular, but the public favors some of the law’s key provisions.
“I can understand the attempt to make a political connection,” Rep. John Larson, D-Ct., told the Examiner. “I think it’s a very specious argument. Because they think they can cash in at the expense of veterans. Shame on them.”
Larson noted that polls show veterans like the health care they receive at the VA and that the problem lies with providing better access, which will require hiring more doctors.
“Fix the problem for the veteran,” Larson said. “Just like you should fix the problem for the person who doesn’t have health care.”
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., who has been targeted in opposition ads for his vote in favor of implementing the health care law, said the Affordable Care Act and Veterans Administration are completely unrelated.
“I cannot compare the whole fiasco to the administration of the ACA at all,” Rahall said. “There are problems with the VA, yes. It’s nothing new as we are finding out. But I don’t compare the two at all.”