Recent reports in the news of delays of service by Veterans Affairs have been translated by many in the public to the Affordable Care Act. However, the VA and ACA are not comparable as recently expressed (Aug. 2) in The Advocate by Col. Murphy Neal Jones.
The comparison of the Affordable Care Act and the VA regional offices and medical facilities is misleading. The VA is a government-run health care system. The ACA is a vehicle for individuals and small companies to purchase private insurance.
We commend Jones for his service in Vietnam. As a military retiree, he is eligible for access to multiple government-run health care programs, including military nedical facilities, VA medical facilities, DOD Tricare health insurance and perhaps civilian Medicare.
As a retired VA employee who worked in VA medical centers nationwide, I agree with Jones that the disability claim process is too long. There are hundreds of thousands of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, and Congress recently expanded Agent Orange disability claim parameters for Vietnam-era veterans. Congress finally allotted additional resources to the VA last week.
Access to VA medical care is directly related to a veteran’s individual eligibility and service time, and care is not based on a “rationing” paradigm. Not all veterans are eligible or entitled to VA-sponsored medical care because of laws that Congress has passed.
The ACA does not promise universal health insurance. Its intent is to provide Americans access to basic, affordable, quality health care services; no longer allow insurance companies to discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions; and begin to address the high cost of health care in the U.S. The ACA is not, nor was it intended to be, a government health care system. There is no “ACA” insurance card.
ACA is accomplished through private insurance companies. These companies, like Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana and Louisiana Health Cooperative, use central decision-making models that provide their insurance plans to ACA-marketplace customers just as they do for their other customers.
Congress has had many opportunities to fix the VA and ACA. Changes should be addressed through revisions and upgrades.
The League of Women Voters of Louisiana fully supports the health care position adopted by the national league more than 30 years ago. We shall continue to promote health care policy solutions that control costs to advance and ensure access to affordable, quality, basic health care for all Americans.
Linda P. Hawkins
retired, VA medical centers nationwide; League of Women Voters of Louisiana health care chairwoman