by Marshall Hanson
Director of Legislation and Naval Services
A number of retired beneficiaries of Medicare and Tricare For Life are concerned about any "deep cuts" in Medicare as one of the methods proposed to fund a national health care program. This group of concerned people unnecessarily believe cuts in Medicare coverage could result in reductions in coverage of Tricare For Life as a supplemental heath insurance.
Currently, there are no fee reductions for Medical providers included in either proposed National health care plan. The Medicare cuts were taken from the Medicare Advantage (HMO) program, and taxing being placed on certain medical devices.
A Senate proposal to tax Cadillac health policies, would exempt TRICARE from being called a Cadillac policy.
The concerns stem from an viral e-mail, which has been circulating since last spring. The email is based on a Congressional Budget Office report published last December which made suggestions incongruous with the direction of Congress. This CBO standard report is issued every two years and many of these suggested ideas have been repeated from earlier reports.
The Congress hasn’t treated this report seriously.
The House National Health Care plan has language that exempts Title Ten Military Health Care, as well as Veterans Health Care. These have been identified as qualified plans and are exempted from and tax penalties. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has assured ROA that similar protections will be included in the Senate Bill.
The one issue is the pending cut to Medicare fees of 21 percent which is based on existing law. The House passed ring HR 3961 to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to reform the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate payment system for physicians. It has been sent to the Senate.
Medicare payments to doctors are scheduled to be cut on Jan. 1, 2010. Congress has been preventing these cuts over the last number of years. Earlier this fall, the Senate rejected a permanent fix to these cuts, leaving it an annual chore. Such legislation puts the Sustainable Growth Rate factor used to calculate the annual update to the Medicare physician fee schedule on hold.
Keep informed of further developments regarding Tricare at www.roa.org/tricare_homepage.