Paul Krugman follows up his column today with a look at the administration's claim that spending on veterans' health care is up 83 percent:
Data for March 5 Column, "Valor and Squalor", Paul Krugman, Money Talks: A few follow-up pieces of information on veterans and health care. ... The White House has a “fact sheet” claiming that spending on veterans’ care is up by 83 percent. But if you look at the historical budget data, Table 16-1, you find only a 45 percent increase in spending on veterans’ medical care from 2001 to 2007. What’s going on?
Well, first of all, the number in the fact sheet includes “collections.” This means that if veterans are charged high fees and co-pays, which they increasingly are, the White House counts the money collected as part of its spending on health care, then boasts about how much it’s doing for the troops. As my parents would say, this administration is a real piece of work.
Also, the White House bases its claim on its projected spending in 2008. Now, if you look ... you’ll see something funny about veterans health care spending: the administration projects a big increase from 2007 to 2008, followed by a decline in the following two years. I guess all those wounded vets will somehow heal spontaneously.
In the column, I compared what the administration has actually spent with overall national health care spending. You can get spending in 2001 here and a quasi-official estimate for 2007 here. Overall health spending rose 53 percent from 2001 to 2007.
It’s important to understand these numbers, in order to react to the inevitable right-wing attempt to spin the Walter Reed scandal: predictably, they’re claiming that the problems at Walter Reed show the evils of “socialized medicine.” Um, no: they show what happens when a government that doesn’t care starves veterans’ health care of resources even as its war places huge new demands on the system, and then makes things even worse through cronyism and privatization.