Healthcare, Private and Public

TBogg compares and contrasts two articles on recently divulged problems at Walter Reed. The predictable response from some quarters: government should stay out of healthcare.

Which contrasts with this from the Army Times:

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has subpoenaed Maj. Gen. George Weightman, who was fired as head of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, after Army officials refused to allow him to testify before the committee Monday.

Three dots

Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and subcommittee Chairman John Tierney asked Weightman to testify about an internal memo that showed privatization of services at Walter Reed could put “patient care services… at risk of mission failure.”

Three more dots

The memorandum “describes how the Army’s decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was causing an exodus of ‘highly skilled and experienced personnel,’” the committee’s letter states. “According to multiple sources, the decision to privatize support services at Walter Reed led to a precipitous drop in support personnel at Walter Reed.”

The letter said Walter Reed also awarded a five-year, $120-million contract to IAP Worldwide Services, which is run by Al Neffgen, a former senior Halliburton official.
They also found that more than 300 federal employees providing facilities management services at Walter Reed had drooped to fewer than 60 by Feb. 3, 2007, the day before IAP took over facilities management. IAP replaced the remaining 60 employees with only 50 private workers.

“The conditions that have been described at Walter Reed are disgraceful,” the letter states. “Part of our mission on the Oversight Committee is to investigate what led to the breakdown in services. It would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldiers.”

The letter said the Defense Department “systemically” tried to replace federal workers at Walter Reed with private companies for facilities management, patient care and guard duty – a process that began in 2000.

Long time readers may recall I had a post looking at correlations between government’s share of the healthcare dollar and the rise in healthcare costs. To quote myself:

The correlation between the government’s share of the nation’s healthcare expenses and the rate at which these expenses rise is negative. In plain English – the more involved the government gets in healthcare, the slower the healthcare costs rise. Sure, correlation is not causality, but if private health insurance was the panacea the president makes it out to be, the correlation between government involvement in healthcare and the rate at which healthcare costs increase should be positive.