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Letter: Cost of Deliberation

Frank Medico in the Mt. Vernon Gazette (June 5-11) shifts the subject away from the imminent importance of Medicaid expansion to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) itself, aka Obamacare. The ACA authorizes Medicaid expansion. Let’s clarify some of Mr. Medico’s more important misconceptions.

The ACA along with Medicaid expansion follow a long line of successful safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Over time, despite initial problems, these programs have saved thousands of lives and enriched the quality of life for all Americans.

Under the ACA, companies selling insurance on the exchanges must meet certain standards set by the government. They cannot sell substandard plans which don’t include basic health care benefits, or charge higher premiums to women, or deny people with pre-existing conditions. The plans must also provide a wide range of free preventive care services. These more comprehensive plans cost more, and may have different physicians in their networks. The benefits of the plans will be available to those who have paid their first premiums, about 80 per cent of all enrollees. One woman on TV said she was paying only around $50 per month for health insurance … turns out it didn’t cover hospitalization.

Many waivers questioned by Mr. Medico are for the states for Medicaid expansion. The ACA allows each state to develop the expansion in their own way providing they include the standards set by the program. States’ rights advocates should applaud the decentralized focus of the ACA.

Also, the subsidies and tax credits being criticized are very important to ensure adequate care for the most needy and marginal citizens. Beginning in 2014, many individuals and families will be eligible to receive subsidies to help pay for their private health insurance, if they are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or CHIP (a special program for children) and do not have affordable coverage through their employer. Small businesses may be eligible for tax credits to help provide their employees with health insurance.

Also, new taxes fall mainly on the wealthy and large businesses. Those individuals who elect not to participate in the program, pay a penalty. There are no additional ACA taxes on commonly purchased items like eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and wheelchairs.

Also, Mr. Medico wonders why members of Congress, their staffs and the executive branch is exempt from the ACA. In fact, lawmakers and most of their staffs are required to purchase insurance through the exchanges. Executive branch staff continues to be insured under its traditional government plan.

Mr. Medico also asserts that unions are given preferential treatment. In fact, the government has denied the unions’ request for a waiver of ACA fees on their health plans as well as federal subsidies. No favoritism there.

Mr. Medico calls for continued deliberation regarding the Medicaid expansion program of the ACA. We’ve had enough deliberation. Deliberation has cost us over $800 million in federal aid since Jan. 1. Is that not enough time and money lost to decide whether Virginians are going to get sick, live, or die? We are the seventh richest state in per capita income and we can’t find the resources, despite potentially millions in federal aid, to care for our veterans, our children, and our struggling families? Shame on the House of Delegates for continuing the legacy of disregard for the health and well-being of thousands of Virginians.

John S. Glaser

Alexandria