|Air Force Chief of Staff|
Gen Norton Schwartz
Q: "[Should] military families and retirees...pay a greater share than they are paying right now to address the growing health care bill DOD is paying?”
Gen: Schwartz' Answer: “A bit of background, health care for the department of defense at the moment is a $40 billion level of effort, and by 2015 it will probably be in the $60 to $65 billion level of effort. As you look at the DOD budget that is probably 12, 13, 14 percent of the entire defense budget. That is serious money. And the reality is that the co-pays for Tricare, which is a very good program certainly on par with many others in the country, have not changed since 1985. I think it is inescapable that a change will have to be made and clearly these are matters for the executive to propose and the legislative to dispose. But we collectively as a family of actively serving and formerly serving members and families have to recognize that if we’re not careful these that these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the DOD portfolio. That is worrisome and something that will have to be addressed. Do it compassionately, rationally, but it has to be addressed.”
Gen Schwartz's response received coverage in The Hill, DoD Buzz, and Air Force News.
In September The Reserve Officer blogged about an exchange between Gen Schwartz and an airman at a commander's call. The airman posed the question, "Since health care is the No. 1 concern for retirees, what is being done to expand the support to beneficiaries?" Gen Schwartz used that question as an opportunity to express his serious concerns about the spiraling costs of health care entitlements. He has continued to voice his concerns at other venues, such as the National Press club.
On a technical point, Tricare Prime only came into effect in 1995. ROA is checking with Gen Schwartz' staff to see if he misspoke on the date or if DOD is including Tricare's predecessor, CHAMPUS, in its calculations as fuel for their position to increase payments.
ROA has been working hard to establish a continuity of health care for drilling and mobilized reservists, gray are retirees, and retirees in pay. Does such service warrant military health care and at what cost? Are there alternatives?