The hospital industry’s stake in the privatization of the Veterans Health Administration was on display on October 22, when former speaker of the House John Boehner played a major role in the Cleveland Clinic’s Medical Innovation Summit 2018. Borrowing Silicon Valley’s favorite term, the conference theme was “Disruption: Reimagining Healthcare.” In front of an audience of 800 doctors, health industry entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, he reimagined a healthcare system that is totally dominated by healthcare corporations and devoid of all government programs.
As Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, who is also a physician, sat by his side, Boehner argued that “Medicare and Medicaid are bankrupting the federal government.” The private sector, he continued, plays a more important role in research than the National Institute of Health. Boehner reserved his most pointed words for the Veterans Health Administration. The VHA, he said, was “hopeless and unnecessary and provides substandard care for our veterans who deserve the best care.” A total assault on the VHA’s 11,000 physicians—and, by extension, thousands of other healthcare professionals—Boehner added that, “If you’re a real doctor, you’re probably not working at the VA.”
Boehner’s remarks ignited a protest from veterans, advocates, VA doctors and the union that represents the VA’s workers, the American Federation of Government Employees. “While it’s certainly not surprising to hear Mr. Boehner spread such vile and slanderous statements about our country’s largest and best health care system,” said AFGE’s National President J. David Cox Sr., “it’s quite disheartening to the hundreds of thousands of women and men who have dedicated their lives to caring for our nation’s veterans.”
– Washington Monthly