Proposed Tricare Cuts Could Cause Problems For Military Families and Retirees
January 7, 2009
It’s pretty much a given fact that the men and women serving in our country’s Armed Forces aren’t paid a whole lot. A large majority of them are living paycheck to paycheck, barely getting by. Many of our Veterans are in the same position, some even worse off, as evidenced by the numbers of homeless veterans in our country. When I read about this particular proposal to cut Tricare benefits for Military Families and Veterans I was none too happy.
A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office details just one proposal that would increase out of pocket expenses for medical care for Military Families and Veterans, while others would lose their VA benefits altogether. Other proposals would raise Tricare fees, co-payments and deductibles. Veterans whose medical condition isn’t service related could end up no longer being eligible for VA medical care at all. While nothing has been approved at this juncture, the Congressional Budget Office director at this time is President-elect Obama’s choice to be his director of the Office of Management and Budget, and who led the work on this proposal, Peter R. Orszag, so it very possibly will have a very real, very devastating affect on our Troops and our Veterans.
“We are going to go through our federal budget, as I promised during the campaign, page by page, line by line, eliminating those programs we don’t need and insisting that those that we do need operate in a sensible, cost-effective way,” Obama said in November as he announced Orszag’s nomination to join his cabinet .
“We’re also going to focus on one of the biggest, long-run challenges that our budget faces, namely the rising cost of health care in both the public and private sectors,” Obama continued. “This is not just a challenge but also an opportunity to improve the health care that Americans rely on, and to bring down the costs that taxpayers, businesses and families have to pay. That is what [OMB] will do in my administration.”
Obama added, “Peter doesn’t need a map to tell him where the bodies are buried in the federal budget. He knows what works and what doesn’t, what’s worth our precious tax dollars and what is not.”1
If you care to read the report for yourself, which details these proposals, as well as others, you can do so by following this link to the Congressional Budget Office’s website. I’ll summarize some of the proposed increases and changes and how they can and WILL affect our Military Families and our Veterans.
TRICARE for Working-Age Retirees – Fees, co-payments and deductibles would be raised for retirees under 62 to restore the relative costs paid when TRICARE began in 1995. TRICARE Prime enrollment would be raised to $550 a year for individuals from $230. Retiree families would pay $1100 versus $460 today. Co-pays for doctor visits would climb to $28 from $12 and users of TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Extra would pay an annual deductible of $350 for an individual and $700 for families. Congress has declined to support such increases for the past three years.
Fees for Active Duty Families – Dependents of active duty members enrolled in TRICARE Prime, the managed care network, would pay new fees equal to 10 percent of the cost of health services obtained either in military treatment facilities or through civilian network providers. Total out of pocket costs would be capped, however.
To help offset these costs, dependents would receive a $500 non-taxable allowance annually. Those who elect to use alternative health insurance, rather than TRICARE, could apply the $500 toward their health insurance premiums, co-payments or deductibles.
CBO estimates these fees would save $7 billion over 10 years and encourage Prime enrollees to “use medical services prudently.” It also would entice more spouses to enroll in employer-provided health plans instead of TRICARE. The downside, CBO said, would be financial difficulties for some Prime enrollees despite the cap on out-of-pocket costs. Also, CBO said, spouses induced to rely on employer health plans could see health coverage interrupted during military assignment relocations.
TRICARE-For-Life Fees – The military’s health insurance supplement to Medicare could see higher user costs. Under this option, beneficiaries would pay the first $525 of yearly medical costs plus one half of the next $4725 of costs charged to Medicare. So the extra out-of-pocket cost for TFL users would be up to $2887.50 a year. This amount would be indexed to rise with Medicare costs. The change would save $40 billion over 10 years. But CBO said it also could discourage some patients from seeking preventive care or proper management of chronic conditions. So it could negatively affect some patients’ health.
Tighten VA Enrollment – The VA healthcare system would be directed to disenroll 2.3 million Priority Groups 7 and 8 — individuals who are not poor and have no service-related medical needs. Estimated savings would be $53 billion over 10 years but Medicare spending would rise by $26 billion in the same period as elderly among these vets shifted to Medicare.
CBO said 90 percent of these vets have other health care coverage. But this change could leave up to 10 percent unable to find affordable care.2
When I read this, needless to say it angered me. Our Servicemembers and our Veterans have given so much to our country, did our country’s bidding, often at the expense of their families and often at the expense of their health. Our Servicemembers and Veterans deserve much better treatment from our country than this. Right now, this changes have not been implemented, so there’s still time to contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel about this. Military.com has a letter that you can use to send to your elected officials and let them know how you feel about this. Please do so. You can find this letter by following this link.
Our Troops, their Families and our Veterans deserve much better than this. They deserve our appreciation and our gratitude. Increasing the cost of healthcare benefits that they’ve worked so hard for is NOT the way to do so. My thoughts are that perhaps Congress should look at cutting some of the benefits and perks that they vote for themselves, instead of benefits for our Troops. Afterall, they are public servants as well and their healthcare costs, wages and benefits if cut could save our country a considerable amount of money.
- http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,182097,00.html [↩]
- http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,182097,00.html [↩]