Tender Loving Health Care, Care of the Government

Those of you who are concerned about the quality of health care that would be provided by a government run program should visit the Veterans Administration hospital in Seattle. It would be a real eye-opener.

The Seattle VA facility is HUGE. There are patients everywhere. Many of those patients are very, very ill. It has a very large Oncology unit that includes bone morrow transplants, along with other advanced therapies.

I had occasion to spend a couple of days there recently because a family member was on an irreversible course out of this world and into the next. Watching someone go through that is nothing anybody ever wants to do. I approached the hospital with great trepidation because it was the last place on the planet I wanted to be. But, here is what I found:

It is the most user-friendly, patient-oriented place I have ever seen. This care starts before you even get into the hospital. Because it is so big, the hospital requires a lot of parking. Because of a construction project, the closest parking is far enough away so that someone who has trouble with mobility would find getting to the front door from their vehicle daunting, to say the least. So they have valet parking with big signs that say “NO TIPPING ALLOWED.” Your vehicle is whisked away when you get there and retrieved in a matter of minutes when you are ready to leave.

Inside the doors are lots of patients. Some are in lines, but the lines move easily along. I got about 20 steps into the building when a guy asked me if he could give me help finding where I was trying to go. I did not have to ask for help. It was volunteered, very specific and accurate. That kind of affirmative, helpful attitude continued throughout.

I was there for two very long days. We never had to use the buzzer to summon a nurse. The nurses came into the room to offer help and solace before we knew we needed it. And the routine was always the same. First the patient was attended to so that he was getting what he needed. Then the people who were there with the patient got asked if they needed anything, and if they did, it was produced right away. Three different physicians came to the room unbidden (one of them half a dozen times) just to see how the patient and his family were doing. His wife received several visits from a psychologist who helped however she could.

Everyone, from the guy who emptied the trash to the nursing staff to the doctors to the administrative staff, were kind, empathetic and helpful. The care was wonderful. The patient was unlucky and his life ended. But it was in spite of, not because of, the care he received, all provided by the government.

To borrow from Winston Churchill, we have nothing to fear from government health care but fear itself.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Ginny says:

    Yes, VA care is good. We don't live in Seattle, though!

    A number of doctors here, alone, have stopped taking Medical and Medicare, some for years. The ones who have Medical don't get the same treatment you received from VA.

    A Canadian couple on the way back from here, I asked where do they go for a CT scan when you are told the wait time is months. They come here!

    Where will we and they be able to go down the road in a few years? Mexico?

  2. Avatar Marie says:

    Considering how untouchable social security and medicare are from budget cuts, I suspect once our new health care program is in place it was become just as untouchable. Once people start receiving these services they will not want to give them up. Besides back in the day, it was all doom and gloom when they passed medicare and social security and look it today. I don't see swarms of people giving up their medicare coverage or their social security checks.

    I am glad it passed so that my daughters will have something since their employers either offer nothing or it is horribly expensive and they can't afford it
    As for Canadians coming here for health care, I know people that go there for more affordable services just as I know seniors who drive to Mexico for affordable dentistry. People go to where they think they will get the care they need at the price they can afford.
    Line up 10 people and you will hear 10 different accounts on how either horrible their health care is or how wonderful it is no matter where they live. Health care quality is very subjective to who is receiving it.

  3. Avatar Richard Douse says:

    Several years ago, at numerous times, I would take my late step-father to our local VA clinic on Hartnell Ave. I was with him during all procedures. The care and personal attention they gave him was consistently outstanding. If and when the need arises, I will go their myself . . . with confidence.

  4. Avatar Darrell Burrell says:

    Thank you, Dugan, for trying to give a government program a touch of humanity. Unfortunately, the people who have made up their minds that all government is bad government won't be able to accept the message. Let's hope there is still enough level-headedness in the country to see through the vitriolic negativity that is designed simply for political gain and has nothing to do with protecting the American people, as is so piously expounded.

  5. Avatar RGlenn says:

    Ginny, indeed, patients already go to Mexico and Canada for treatment and prescriptions.

    They go to Mexico because healthcare is cheaper or free; and they are not denied because of pre-existing health conditions. And they will see you whether you are documented or not.

    Other patients go to Canada because our American made pills are cheaper in Canada than in the USA. When the Republican Congress and Bush passed and signed the medicare prescription coverage, America was committed to a no-bid pharmacy and a donut hole in prescription coverage.

    Wealth was the way America rationed healthcare coverage pre-Obama.

    Sunday night all that has changed, America finally showed its compasionate and humane side.

  6. Avatar Sue Kolbo says:

    The first health care bill just passed. I actually cried when the scroll came across TV last night, although I am personally now covered by Medicare. It's my middle-class uninsured children and their families that will benefit.

    Please remember that our congressman, Wally Herger [who has never represented ME in his 12 terms of office] voted lock-step against this bill. The Sacramento Bee has estimated that Herger's district will benefit with more than 83,000 persons receiving health care who previously did not have insurance. That's more than any other North State district, by almost 30,000 folks. Herger is also the representative who has received almost 100% of his recent election funds from out-of-state pharma, insurance, and large health-care companies (according to a News Cafe investigation), meaning that nearly zero locals really think enough of Herger to contribute to his cause.

    May this frustrating form of political hack be replaced in November by a true listener to the needs of the North State, be that person Democrat or Republican. We only want to find someone who will be willing to help us more than help him/herself.

  7. Avatar James Michael Alliso says:

    Thank you Obama, and the Democrats, for your courage. And thanks for the first major step toward fixing our broken health care system since LBJ.

    It will be more efficient than what we have now — without a doubt. But the real beneficiaries will be SMALL BUSINESSES, AND SMALL EMPLOYERS.

    Cry "socialism" all you want, nay-sayers. But Joe McCarthy is dead. And he will stay dead. It isnt the best bill that could have passed (that would have been single-payer, which wasnt even considered.) But this CENTRIST, MODERATE, MIDDLE OF THE ROAD REFORM is better than nothing, and the best we could ever get from the champions of the super-wealthy — the US Senate.

    • Avatar mclisa says:

      I'm still hoping for some sort of affordable coverage. I have a small business and am a victim of Blue X's recent ripoff. They raised our rates over $400/mo for 2 healthy people. Health insurance now costs more than our mortgage.
      What really confuses me is the nay-sayers who make their livings from the local economy. We two healthy people are paying about $800 more per month than we would if we had single payer. If we weren't being fleeced by Blue X, we could spend that money locally on (take your pick)
      20 visits to a local restaurant
      4 (I guess) visits to a day spa (I'm guessing because I cant afford it now but I sure could use a massage)
      Rewiring my barn
      Plumbing for my barn
      Part of a new roof
      2 new cars (2 at $400/mo)
      Hiring someone to put in our laminate floor instead of trying to do it ourselves
      Irrigation ditch upgrades
      Office space
      a vacation
      counseling (because after making up this list I'm really depressed)

  8. Avatar lee riggs says:

    It is a step, but without a public option deeply flawed

  9. Avatar James Michael Alliso says:

    Right on mclisa. Its a step in the right direction. My guess is that once the people see the results of this, and find out that no secret communist organization is going to kill grandma, and turn their kids into devotees of Mao Tse Tung, the Republicans will have lost ALL credibility (It amazes me that anyone still listens to them after Bush/Rove/Cheney,) and THEN we might at least CONSIDER single-payer.

  10. Avatar Pat j. says:

    I keep hearing you are going to be fined if you have a Cadilac Plan. Can anyone tell me what that plan is???????????????? pj

    • Avatar J P Adams says:

      Check The Pinlight, Pat J.

    • Avatar JimG says:

      I think the definition of a "Cadillac Plan", is based on cost (from wikipedia):

      the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act imposes an excise tax on plans with an annual cost exceeding $8,500 for individuals or $23,000 for a family (including vision and dental benefits) and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 proposes amending these limits to $10,200 and $27,500, respectively (not including vision and dental).

  11. Avatar Dave K. says:

    My wife's cousin goes to a VA hospital in Florida where they've installed a pacemaker and provided the full range of medical services for various other ailments.

    He's bragged about the care he's gotten there for free, yet listens to Limbaugh and complains about Obama's heath care efforts as leading us into socialism.

    It reminds me of those Tea Baggers who carry signs saying, "Don't let the Government take over my Medicare."

    • Avatar roy says:

      Is your wife's cousin a veteran? Obviously, he is or they wouldn't treat him.

      So, you compare him to someone with their hand out.

      He, sir, kept his part of the deal that the Goverment made. They(VA) must have determined that the service was related to HIS service to his country. Can you say the same?

      Also, you fail to realize that the "Tea Baggers"(If on Medicare) have paid for that service. Can you say that? They are only demanding what they have PAID for. Not some 20 year old who hasn't.

      It's people like you that fail/refuse to understand the difference. Paid for versus gimmie.

      You sir are an idiot

      • Avatar Dave K. says:


        I agree with you that VA benefits and Medicare are legitimate government programs. However, you missed my point, which was: don't complain about other people receiving government services that other people may receive unless you know their situations, especially if you are one of those receiving government-run services yourself.

        My experience and knowledge of Medicare and VA are that they work well, and my military service and travel overseas has allowed me to observe both socialized health care and the third world's lack of health care. The socialized health care systems seem to work fairly well, and countries without it don't do nearly as well.

        For instance, your hypothetical twenty year old may need health care but be unable to afford the insurance companies' inflationary rates or the direct costs of the care she or he receives. Would you still deny him government health care?


        • Avatar roy says:

          If I misunderstood your letter, please accept my apology. I am so tired of hearing people beat up on the "tea baggers"(most I've seen in pics, are seniors)

          I spent 22+ yrs in US Army, so, I too traveled all over the world and have seen alot of the care provided. In my humble opinion, dosen't come close too what we have here.

          My 20y.o. example would be well served, if he had spent time in the service, then he too would have more options. Hmmmm, maybe, like South Korea, we need a mandatory draft, 18, 2 years in service.

          VA and Medicare both run in the hole(red ink).

          If the Goverment spent more time going after fraud and abuse, how much $$ would that save. The phoney law suits, filed by "Lawers"(LA, several years ago, cut off big trucks, sue) remember?

          I'm NOT disagreeing that we can do better, I just don't want the same people who created this mess running it. '


  12. Avatar roy says:

    Having read all your whineings, I'm amazed at the failure of you people. Every letter cries out gimmie.

    You "blame" Bush/Cheney, how very pathetic.

    The Republicians have not JUST tried to block healthcare, READ. What they said was let's look for ways to do this WITHOUT gov. takeover. Leave it in the private sector where it belongs.

    Has this country simply gone to the mentality of gimmie?

    Canada and all countries with "free care" are going broke through healthcare. Can we be far behind now?

    Who created the problems in healthcare that has brought us to this level? The goverment and their regulations. The private companies have only done what they have been allowed to do. So now the same people will fix it. Don't hold your breath

  13. Avatar roy says:

    Mr. Barr,

    I enjoyed your letter very much. It was indeed a positive point of view for a change, the VA is taking care of the people our goverment made the agreement with in exchange for their service to our country.

    I too am a 100% disabled Vet, retired US Army. I would like to remind your rearders of the fact that they(service members) were forced to indur the spraying of chemicals(agent orange) that today are killing them.(Cancer, particularly lung cancer.) Your loss was obviously determined to be service related also.

    I have a brother-in-law recently told at the age of 65 he has maybe a year/year and a half left due to Cancer(brain stem/lungs/heart all through out his body) He server in V.N. IN 1967. I was there in 1966/1970/71. I don't expect any handouts, only what I was promised in return for my service

  14. Avatar Pat j. says:

    Thanks to the two who answered my question about the Cadillac Plan, Thanks to the Vets who deserve good quality care. pj

  15. Avatar Stella says:

    Who's crazy idea was it anyway that our heath care should be directly tied to our jobs. Every time you change your job, you change your health care. Then you have pre-existing conditions which may not be covered, changing coverages, and changing doctors.

    We should have one health care plan from birth until death and the only way to provide that is through our government. The VA and MediCal are wonderful examples of the complete and efficient health care that our government could provide for everyone.

    If everyone were covered by government health care, all doctors would accept and no one would be turned away.

  16. Avatar emil shue says:

    The fact that your experience was a pleasant one makes it no less of a red herring in the National Health Care debate. As I've pointed out to you previously, our government is capable of performing admirably when the program is fiscally logical, and the people in charge are talented and dedicated. With the proper motivation and personnel, we are able to provide adequately for a small minority of our population, such as seniors or veterans. An obvious financial problem occurs when we all jump in the same pot. The trait that so well defines the collectivist is his inability to discern that distinction.

    As long as we're quoting Churchill; "Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."

    As to the fetid Health Care mess recently bribed and extorted through Congress, the cagey Prime Minister would have opined; "This report, by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read."

  17. Avatar emil shue says:

    P.S. The paraphrased quote is FDR's, not Winnie's.