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A successful Veterans Administration is dangerous

The VA is not only a threat to "market" ideology, which holds that all single-payer systems are inefficient, bureaucratic and wasteful, it's a threat to the industries which benefit from the medical status-quo.

Rep. Bob Filner of California, chair of the Veterans Affairs CommitteeThe Veterans Administration health system must be destroyed. Or at least hobbled.

Why? The VA is a single payer system, the only such system in the U.S. If it does, as Roger Maduro suggests, provide better care than Medicare, for one-third the cost, it is a serious political threat indeed.

The VA has a simple mission. Care for these people. Thus the weakness of the VistA software has always been its lack of a proper paying-and-billing module. As with the early Internet, all bills go to the government.

Of course, by funding the early Internet centrally, so its architecture became divorced from costs, a working model was constructed which later proved of enormous economic benefit. Can't have that.

The VA is not only a threat to "market" ideology, which holds that all single-payer systems are inefficient, bureaucratic and wasteful, it's a threat to the industries which benefit from the medical status-quo.

So it's important to go after the VA now, before any real debate on the future of the U.S. healthcare system gets going.

And the best way to go after it is through its computer system. A simple, decentralized structure, originally in the public domain, now offered as an open source project, is an enormous threat to proprietary vendors.

If it sounds like I've got my tinfoil hat on a bit too tight, Roger Maduro writes this morning that the VistA system went down April 10, affecting a dozen hospitals for a full shift.

The agency continues to insist that moving computer operations to regional data centers will improve operations, despite abundant evidence to the contrary.

But if the computer system the agency depends on goes down the whole system is hobbled. Won't that make it easier to "privatize" the VA, as House Veterans Affairs Committee head Bob Filner (D-Calif.) seems to want?

I don't know. Ask him. And when you do don't forget to mention all that money his campaign committee gets from health professionals and law firms.

He might prefer discussing the VA to other subjects.