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Published: Monday, May 26, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Guest Commentary / Staying on topic

No comparison between the VA, ACA

The letter published Friday purporting to offer some relevant information regarding the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Affordable Care Act is so riddled with misinformation it cannot go uncorrected.
First, I would point out that the VA is an agency of the U.S. government. Are there problems with it? Unfortunately, that is a giant “yes.” But how does that relate to the ACA? The ACA places individuals and families into health-care plans administered totally by private health-care insurance providers. The ACA provides increased regulations on those companies and the policies they provide, including a cap on how much profit these insurance companies can make, as well as other provisions which greatly benefit people insured under the program. These include no caps on lifetime benefits, no pre-existing condition exclusions, no danger of losing coverage if one gets ill and actually needs it, the ability of family members under 26 to stay on their parents' plans, among others.
The writer then veers off into pension funds and Solyndra, just because they are popular Rush talking points, I guess. I have no idea how they relate to this topic so I will dismiss them without comment.
But let's get back to the supposed point of the letter, the ACA. The writer launches into an attack on a “British firm, Serco.” The first problem with that is that Serco is actually based in Reston, Virginia. The writer states that Serco was “awarded $1.2 billion” to handle “paper applications.” The misinformation there is first, the contract has a one-year base period and four one-year option periods. As posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the total potential five-year contract value, including all option periods and optional tasks, is approximately $1.25 billion. So, the statement that Serco has just been given $1.2 billion is patently false.
As for the writer's contention that “99.9 percent of applications are done online,” I can only guess the writer is somehow not aware that the online system has been having a few problems?
But even in the absence of those issues, far more than .1 percent of individuals need other than online options. From Consumer Reports, “While the ACA proposes to provide an easy way for individuals to access online applications from the privacy of home, many individuals still are not able to take advantage of the online option. Some individuals do not have the “hardware” that would enable them to apply from home, e.g. computers, printers or scanners; others are challenged by language barriers, low English proficiency, disability or additional reasons that prevent them from comfortably being able to complete an online application without some level of assistance.”
Are there some problems with the ACA? A resounding yes. There are problems with any new, complicated system, and the provision of quality health care to the people of our country is an enormous challenge. But the system the ACA is replacing had far more problems and was far less equitable and efficient in the utilization of scarce medical resources than we are seeing now, after the implementation of just the first few steps of the new system.
Any comparison of the specifics of the Affordable Care Act to the challenges facing the Veterans Administration Medical Centers serves no useful purpose because they have only the provision of medical care as a commonality. When someone cannot even use actual facts in attempting that comparison, it is a grave disservice to all and a total waste of time.
Steve Guinn lives in Edmonds.

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