There's more bad news about the health care provided by the government through the Veterans Administration, which Nobel laureate New York Times columnist Paul Krugman claims "manages to combine quality care with low costs." The latest is a report (pdf) from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, following up on a finding that at a VA Medical Center in Marion, Ill., seven out of 180 patients between October 2006 and December of 2006 died during or after surgery. "This mortality rate was more than four times greater than expected when considering the patients' physical conditions prior to surgery," the report says, in part because "physicians had privileges to perform procedures without evidence of competence to perform the procedures." Now the GAO has checked records at six other VA Medical Centers and found "29 of the 180 credentialing and privileging files reviewed lacked proper verification of state medical licensure. In addition, the VAMCs did not identify instances when physicians appeared to have omitted required information on their applications. For example, GAO identified 21 files where required malpractice information was not disclosed by physicians and was not detected by VAMCs."
Some government health-care organizations, like the National Institutes of Health, are amazing, as good or better than any private facilities. And some for-profit, non-government hospitals are as bad, or worse, than the V.A. But Professor Krugman is painting with a broad brush indeed when he says the VA system "manages to combine quality care with low costs."